Farmers driving tractors pulled into Brussels on Tuesday hours before the ending of milk quotas across the EU.
Small farm owners warn that the liberalisation of the milk market from midnight on April 1 will lead to a massive ramp up of production and a drop in prices which would force many of them out of business.
Maria Heubuch, an MEP for the Greens told euronews that if small farmers disappeared “Europe could see more factory farms with 1000, 2000 or even 5000 cows, merely providing raw materials for the industry.”
German farmer Karl-Otto Vollrath, who joined Tuesday’s protest, predicted: “There’ll be no winners whether you have 50 or 500 cows.”
Quotas began in 1984 as a response to the so-called EU milk lakes and butter mountains caused by overproduction and many warn of a repeat of those days.
Maria Heubuch, also a Greens MEP, predicted that “yields will continue to rise and prices will continue to fall.”
Romuald Schaber, President of the European Milk Board called for more effective regulation to ensure prices don’t remain low.
“We demand a responsible market where in times of crisis, production can be higher. But where the market comes back into balance quickly so that the prices don’t become a bottomless pit,” Schaber told euronews.
The abolition of milk quotas is being lauded by the food giants, who say they need to meet the increased demand from the likes of China.
Germany and Netherlands are set to increase milk production by as much as 20 percent while Ireland is expecting a 50 percent rise in output by 2020.
Last quota milk being collected here thank God. Back to normality from now on. pic.twitter.com/gVrwI6Q9mV— Michael Downey (@michaeldowney6) March 28, 2015