Empty shelves in Belgian supermarkets?
Angry dairy farmers, mostly from Wallonia, blocked 2 distribution centres of the Colruyt supermarket chain in Halle and Ghislenghien yesterday morning.
In the afternoon they set up blockades at Delhaize and Carrefour distribution centres. They are protesting against the low milk prices.
The blockade began in the evening at about 10 pm. Disgruntled Walloon dairy farmers drove a dozen tractors to the large distribution centres in Halle, Ghislenghien, Courcelles and Villeroux and blocked entry. They are demanding a higher price for milk in the stores, because the farmers say they cannot make a living on the amount they get now. The farmers want the supermarkets to make agreements on higher prices.
In the afternoon the farmers went to the distribution centres of Delhaize in Zellik and Carrefour in Nivelles. The farmers want to continue the protest action for at least 24 hours and possibly longer. On Tuesday the farmers have planned talks with Federal Farm Minister Sabine Laruelle.
Colruyt is very angry. The supermarket chain feels like it has been singled out. Colruyt stresses that the chain cannot offer any solutions for macro-economic problems. According to the management the blockade of the distribution centres will soon be felt in the stores.
"Within 24 hours there will a shortage of fresh fruit, vegetables, water and soft drinks and within 48 hours there won't be enough dairy products and meat," says CEO Luc Rogge. "The damage will be huge, depending on how long the blockade lasts."
"This is no less than robbery, it borders on blackmail, theft, intimidation and the obstruction of free movement. Where is law and order?"
Colruyt understands that the dairy farmers want to take action because they are fed up with their predicament, but the management is demanding a quick solution.
Fedis calls for calm dialogue
Fedis, the federation of the distribution companies, is asking the farmers to lift their blockade and to enter into calm debate.
"We are aware of the problems that the farmers have and we've repeatedly said that we want to work together to find a solution," says Fedis.
"Agreements on the prices are not possible because they are against competition rules. The blockades should not last because they result in serious loss and waste."