Belgian dairy and pig farmers are to receive 76 million euros (about 85 million U.S. dollars) in short-term aid to help alleviate a financial crisis in the sector, trade federation Comeos announced in a news release on Monday.
The agreement by the Belgian Agro Food Chain Consultation, a group made of representatives from the farming, food production and distribution industries, will also lead to the creation of a more stable pricing mechanism for farm produce in the long term.
Over the next six months, dairy farmers will receive 46 million euros in emergency aid, the equivalent of a 2.7 euro cent supplement on each litre of milk sold. Pork farmers will be given 30 million euros.
Flemish newspaper Het Nieuwsblad said the agreement was reached after several weeks of negotiations, adding: "Dairy and pig farmers have been living for some time in a difficult situation because they have to sell their products at low prices."
Agro Food Chain Consultation president Piet Vanthemsche, quoted by Belgian broadcaster RTL, told a news conference on Monday: "What we are doing here is unique in Europe, with a system of short-term aid and in the long term, we want to try to innovate on an inter-professional level and find a mechanism that allows farmers to receive a more stable income."
The partners in the negotiations hope the long-term pricing model will be defined within the next six months to coincide with the end of the financial aid package, RTL added.
The Comeos news release said: "Price volatility is a recurring problem faced by small family farms."
"Our country's agriculture sector has shown the rest of Europe that the old Belgian adage: 'Unity creates strength' remains true today," said Comeos.
The agreement requires the approval of the Belgian Competition Authority. It will also be discussed at an extraordinary meeting of the Agriculture Council of the European Union on Sept. 7, which has been convened to discuss the economic crisis facing Europe's dairy and livestock sectors.
Comeos added that a separate agreement for beef farmers, a sector it also described as "under pressure", is expected by the end of October.