Just days after a similar demonstration in Brussels during a summit of EU leaders, the sheer number of tractors from at least five countries caused motorway tailbacks of up to 40km (25 miles) towards and over the Belgian border.
Brandishing placards with phrases such as ‘No food without farmers’ and ‘Farmers in torment’, the farmers and tractors blocked much of Luxembourg’s EU quarter, parts of the main city area, and brought traffic on city approach roads to a standstill.
They also burned a stack of hay outside the European Court of Justice, Europe’s highest court located in the EU quarter, and opened the taps of a milk truck in front of the building where EU ministers were debating future changes to farm policy.
“We have been in a very severe crisis for several months now, especially in the milk sector, which has been hit like no other,” said Padraig Walshe, president of EU farm union Copa.
“We must have an immediate response from our agriculture ministers,” he added. “Without farmers, there is no food. Unless urgent action is taken, the future of Europe’s food supplies could be at risk.”
France, Austria and Germany in particular say their dairy producers have been badly hit by weaker prices and want firm EU action to bolster farmer incomes. They have tabled a series of requests, mostly involving hikes in aid to the dairy sector.
But the European Commission, which oversees farm policy in the 27-country bloc, has already taken a string of measures to shore up dairy markets, such as reinstating export subsidies, much to the anger of some of its major trading partners.
The EU has also revived subsidies for private storage, and raised the ceiling on the volume of butter and skimmed milk powder that can be bought into public intervention stores, to remove supply from the market.
While dairy was the main focus, the farmers also complained about the poor state of sectors such as cereals and livestock.
“The milk sector can’t wait,” said Pedro Barato Triguero, president of Spain’s union of young farmers, Asaja. “The pig sector can’t wait. The whole of the agricultural sector can’t wait. For cereals, we’re seeing prices from 20 years ago, so we can’t wait.”
Similar protests were staged in front of the EU House in Budapest, Hungary. One farmer wore an apron with the inscription ‘Drink Hungarian milk!’, while another held a Hungarian flag and a placard reading ‘We want to live’.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019