Blog: Dean BestHard cheese for just-food

Dean Best | 24 September 2009

As glamourous as Sidcup is (and, for the uninitiated, here, is how one resident sees this south London town), your correspondent should around about now have arrived at Paris Gare du Nord, en route to visit French cheese maker Isigny Ste Mere in Normandy.

The company had invited a group of sweaty hacks to northern France for a couple of days to get to know more about the company and its plans to expand its presence in overseas markets.

Alas, the dairy protests sweeping across France and other milk heartlands of the EU put paid to that and Isigny Ste Mere had to apologetically cancel the trip.

Earlier this week, dairy farmers took their protests to Brussels, set fire to hay and discarded gallons of milk outside the front door of the European Commission. Similar protests and blockades were organised in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, as well as France.

Protesters are demanding the Commisson do more to help dairy farmers, who say they are struggling to make ends meet amid low dairy prices.

Agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel, however, insists a "huge amount of support" is already available to help farmers through the "current crisis" - and listed that support in her latest blog.

"It defies belief that some people accuse the EU of “doing nothing” for the dairy sector. To say things like this is not just to be short-sighted: it’s to deliberately turn one’s back on facts which are staring everyone in the face," Fischer Boel writes.

Neverthless, Europe's agriculture ministers must have recognised the severity of the continent-wide protests for, in a couple of weeks, they will convene in Luxembourg for an emergency meeting to discuss the issue.


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