European farmers block Brussels in huge tractor protest
(AFP) Belgian police on Monday fired water cannon at European farmers who lobbed hay and fireworks as they demanded EU intervention against plunging food prices partly blamed on a Russian embargo.
The European Commission said it would release 500 million euros in emergency funds to help ease the pressure on farmers, as agriculture ministers held crisis talks on the situation.
The protest involved what organisers said was up to 6,000 farmers, who blocked streets in Brussels with hundreds of tractors, who targeted the heavily-guarded European Union headquarters where the talks took place.
Police briefly fired water cannon at protesters as farmers used a machine to shoot hay at police, AFP reporters said. Protesters also hurled eggs and set fire to planks of wood and tyres, sending thick black smoke wafting over EU buildings.
A combination of factors, including changing dietary habits, slowing Chinese demand and a Russian embargo on Western products in response to sanctions over the Ukraine conflict, has pushed down prices for beef, pork and milk.
"We are here today to demand EU action," Albert Jan Maat, president of European farmers association Copa, told reporters outside the ministers meeting in central Brussels.
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