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Angry farmers protesting at falling dairy prices in the EU have sprayed fresh milk at the European Parliament and riot police in Brussels.

Thousands of dairy farmers, accompanied by hundreds of tractors, descended on the Belgian capital on Monday for two days of demonstrations.

Disruption has continued, with EU officials hindered from reaching their offices by tractors blocking roads.

Farmers want an increase of up to 25% in their prices to cover costs.


EU milk is often sold at below production costs due to a drop in international demand and increased competition.

The European Milk Board (EMB), which is coordinating the protest, says small farmers are being forced out of business.

In Belgium, for example, the wholesale price for a litre of milk is 0.26 euros ($0.34) but the cost of producing it is 0.40 euros, the board said.

The EU is the world’s largest milk producer and in 2010 nearly 47% of its 123 billion euro budget went on subsidies and other forms of financial aid for farmers, including dairy producers.

Angry farmers protesting at falling dairy prices in the EU have sprayed fresh milk at the European Parliament and riot police in Brussels

Angry farmers protesting at falling dairy prices in the EU have sprayed fresh milk at the European Parliament and riot police in Brussels

Police guarding the European Parliament found themselves being squirted with jets of milk on Monday as protesters directed hoses at the building.

A trailer of hay was set alight on the nearby Place du Luxembourg, where a mock gallows was erected with what appeared to be a hanging dummy of a farmer.

“Politics are really killing us,” Belgian farmer Julien Husquet was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

“It has to change very quickly at the European level. The way it is going, we are in big trouble.”

“It’s very simple: you can’t live off milk anymore,” French farmer Leopold Gruget told AFP news agency.

“If I go on, it’s thanks to European aid… If they do it [phase out subsidies] there will be no more small and medium producers here in five years.”

Some of the largest farmers’ contingents have come from Denmark, France, Germany, the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain, the EU Observer reports.

Erwin Schopges, head of the EMB in Belgium, said Tuesday’s protests would be “symbolic” and calmer.

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World food prices rose 1.4% in September, pushed up by higher meat, dairy and cereals prices, according to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

The rise followed two months where prices held steady, the FAO said.

There has been concern this year about possible food shortages as drought has hit grain crops in the US Midwest, Europe and central Asia.

The FAO also forecast a decline in global cereal production this year.

It now predicts 2.286 billion tons of cereal to be produced, slightly down from the 2.295 billion tons it estimated a month ago.

The current forecast would mean a 2.6% fall in cereal production from 2011’s record crop.

The FAO said this would result in a significant reduction in world cereal stocks by the end of 2013, but added that very early indications for wheat crops in 2013 were encouraging.

Abdolreza Abbassian, senior economist at the FAO, said that food prices were likely to remain high and volatility could increase.

“Prices are sustained. It is highly unlikely we will see a normalization of prices anytime soon,” he told Reuters.

“Volatility is not going to go away, if anything it may even intensify further in coming months,” he said.

The FAO’s Food Price Index rose 3 points to 216 in September, but this is still well below the record 238 reached in February 2011.

Cereal prices rose 1% from August, as gains in wheat and rice offset a decline in maize.

Meat prices were up 2.1%, with particularly strong gains in the “grain-intensive” pig and poultry sectors.

Dairy prices rose 7%, the sharpest monthly increase since January 2011.

“World demand for milk products remains firm which, combined with increasing feed costs, is underpinning world quotations,” the FAO said.

But sugar prices fell 4.2%, reflecting an improved sugarcane harvest in Brazil, the world’s largest sugar exporter.

Oil prices dipped 0.4%.