Protesting farmers cover EU summit centre with milk powder

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Dairy farmers protesting low milk prices sprayed a tonne of milk powder onto a building used by EU leaders for summits in Brussels on Monday, saying a planned sale of milk powder stocks would depress prices in Europe and abroad.

The European Union has bought large quantities of skimmed milk powder to stabilise the market but said in November it would start disposing of some of it after prices had improved.

Hundreds of farmers protesting in front of the European Council’s Justus Lipsius building, where EU governments regularly meet, said they feared that putting the milk powder back onto the market would depress prices in the EU and abroad.

Protesters used farm machinery to cover the building and nearby police officers in a thick coat of the sticky, white powder.

“The milk powder is very symbolic because its the excess which is killing us and emerging countries,” said milk farmer Adrien Lefevre who came from northern France to join the protest.

The European Commission said only a small amount of the total milk powder stock of 354,000 tonnes was for sale and sales would be made without affecting prices or market stability.

“Accusing the Commission of deliberately distorting the dairy market is tantamount to scaremongering,” a spokesman for the European Commission said.

Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek and Hortense de Roffignac, editing by Louise Heavens