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German Farmers, ‘Too Silent, Too Long,’ Stage Surprise Actions

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EIRNS — Yesterday evening, between 200 and 250 farmers with tractors blocked roads near a big food storage site of the Edeka food chain at Neukrug, in northwestern Germany. Trucks arriving or leaving the site were forced to stop for several hours. The blockade, spontaneously organized by farmers angered over an Edeka ad campaign promising cheap food items for the region, was directed against the notorious practice of price dumping by major food chains like this one.

A key issue of protest is the price that farmers receive for a liter of produced milk: the dairies that sleep in the same bed as the stores, pay farmers EU20 cents per liter, whereas farmers need at least EU40 cents to break even. Protest actions like this one have compelled Chancellor Angela Merkel to issue invitations for a roundtable in Berlin on Feb. 3, with leading officials of the main food chains like Aldi, Edeka, and Lidl attending. According to the German Anti-Cartel Office, 85% of Germany’s daily food supply in the stores is controlled by the four leading food chains, and their price-dumping practice, including armtwisting farmers into disadvantageous deals, is on the official record of “misuse of market power.”

Farmers are also increasing the heat on politicians: New Year’s receptions of political parties and other public events featuring politicians as speakers, have become a main target of spontaneous farmers’ protests and interventions. Thus, Green Party leading politician Claudia Roth was welcomed by 15 tractors at the Paintner Hotel in Germering on Jan. 25, and 250 tractors surrounded the Jan. 25 New Year’s reception of the Christian Social Union’s Lower Allgäu district in Mindelheim, Bavaria.

Protest actions in many cities of Lower Saxony compelled that state’s Christian Democrats to declare, at their Jan. 25 New Year’s convention in Walsrode, their support for the farmers’ cause. With Bundestag member Gitta Connemann (CDU), who has also been touring other parts of Germany to talk with farmers, the farmers have a strong sympathizer who has openly endorsed the wave of protests as “long overdue.” Connemann welcomed the protest wave, saying that farmers have been “too silent for too long.” [RAP]