United Farmers clash with police in Brussels during milk and meat prices protest

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British farmers among estimated 4,000 blockading city centre as European ministers hold emergency meeting on agriculture crisis. European agriculture ministers have agreed a €500m (£366m) aid package at an emergency meeting in Brussels as police outside clashed with farmers protesting against falling dairy and meat prices.

The announcement from the commission came after a day of protests, which police said involved 4,800 farmers – with 70 from Britain – and 1,450 tractors.

Tractors blockaded streets while some protesters pelted the police with eggs and sprayed milk and hay at them. At least one police officer was injured and water cannon were used.

Jyrki Katainen, vice-president of the European commission, said the aid was a “robust and decisive response” to the crisis in the industry. The €500m package includes cash for struggling farms, additional funds to promote European dairy products and the creation of a new “high level group” that will consider introducing new “financial and risk-hedging instruments such as futures markets for agricultural products”.

Katainen added: “We believe firmly that the measures I have outlined represent the most appropriate mix of immediate and decisive actions, coupled with forward-looking measures, to deal with the current difficulties in the markets.”

However, British farming leaders expressed disappointment that the EC will not intervene in the market to shore up dairy prices. The so-called “milk intervention price” that would trigger the commission to buy milk and milk powder stands at between 16p and 17p, below present prices.

British agriculture leaders said farmers were “really struggling to pay their bills” and called for greater government intervention in the milk market to help put a floor on prices.

The NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and Ulster Farmers Union said after the meeting the government needed to deliver on their promises.

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