Farmers break police barricades as 900 tractors drive through Brussels

900 tractors arrived in Brussels on Monday for the ongoing farmers' protests, according to police. Several farmers broke through police barricades earlier in the morning and threw eggs at the Lex building, one of the European institutions near the Schuman roundabout.

Police had to retreat after farmers broke through their barricade and threw fertiliser at officers and their vehicles. A police car was crushed by tractors. There were several fires along the tractors' route, and one was extinguished by the fire brigade, leaving straw bales and tractor tyres in the middle of the road.

Farmers protest in Brussels © BELGA VIDEO MAARTEN WEYNANTS

Farmers began arriving in Brussels early on Monday in anticipation of the European agriculture ministers summit. The biggest issue on the table is the Mercosur trade agreement, which the EU is negotiating with a number of South American countries.

While farmers in Belgium must meet rigid conditions, the agreement would open the door to meat and grain from countries where hormones and pesticides can be used without controls. "If the farmer can no longer produce food in Flanders, then the story ends for us but also for the consumer," said farmers union spokesperson Stijn Zelderloo.

Farmers have dismissed the commitments that the European Commission has made, such as the postponement of mandatory fallowing, as "a drop in the bucket that should serve to appease the farmers for a while".

"Europe does not realise it has gold in its hands"

"We will not save agriculture with this. Europe does not realise it has gold in its hands," said Eveline Dedoncker of the United Young Farmers. "We have the most fertile soil in Europe in combination with the most favourable climate for producing food. Our Belgian food safety conditions are also stricter than anywhere else in Europe."

Cheaper products also undermine prices, which are already low, the farmers say. "We want to be paid for our products and not with subsidies. We do not want to be dependent on someone who decides how much we get every year," Dedoncker said.

Farmers protest in Brussels © BELGA PHOTO BENOIT DOPPAGNE

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