EU headquarters ‘white washed’ by dairy farmers

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The headquarters of the European Union has been turned into white, after dairy farmers angry with the crisis in their sector sprayed the building in the Belgian capital with milk powder.

Farmers from countries like Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Lithuania gathered in front of the EU headquarters on Monday as agriculture ministers of the bloc were meeting there.

The farmers used a powerful spray on the back of a tractor to spray tons of milk powder over the building.

The farmers were specifically angry at a decision by the European Commission, EU’s executive arm, to put on sale withdrawn stocks of milk powder. The EU has decided to release a small portion of the product built up in member states over the past year.

The European dairy industry was severely hit in 2014, when Russia imposed sanctions on imports of food products from EU members.

The decision came in response to EU’s sanctions on Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine. To compensate for farmers’ losses, the EU then did away with a complicated milk quota system and allowed the farmers to increase production. That resulted in accumulated stocks of about 355,000 tons.

Farmers gathering in Brussels said the EU had deceived them as the body had vowed that it would not sell milk powder at any price.

“It’s a sharp reminder that the main problem has not been resolved,” said a protester.

Erwin Schopges, a leader of the European Milk Board, which organized the protest, warned that plunging food prices and soaring costs could eventually lead to the collapse of the European milk industry.

“Our farmers have been so rattled by the crisis that only a real price increase and long-term stability on the market can save milk production across the EU from extinction,” said Schopges, adding that for many dairy farmers, the situation is becoming a question of survival.