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Dutch farmers block food distribution and ports in protest

Published July 05,2022

Dutch farmers blockaded supermarket distribution centres on Monday in continuing protests at new environmental rules on nitrogen emissions that are likely to put many of them out of business.

Fishers blocked ports in a show of support for farmers. The blockade prevented ferries from sailing to almost all the Wadden Islands off the country's northern coast and caused lengthy delays, shipping companies reported.

However, the port of Rotterdam, Europe's biggest harbour, wasn't affected.

Farmers used tractors and large bales of hay to block entrances to more than 20 supermarket distribution centres. The association of food traders called the protest "completely unacceptable" and spoke of the first supply bottlenecks.

Association director Marc Jansen called on the authorities to intervene. "It can't go on like this," he said on the radio. "We don't have anything to do with the conflict between the state and farmers."

Local media also reported of empty shelves in some supermarkets, with mostly fresh produce such as bread, vegetables, fruit and milk in short supply.

The action had been announced in advance, with farmers calling for "the entire country to be paralysed."

Airports had also prepared for blockades on access roads. Traffic along most of the country's dense road network was reported to be normal.

Police said they would intervene if demonstrators moved to block access to Schiphol international airport near Amsterdam.

Over recent weeks, Dutch farmers have engaged in occasionally violent protests against environmental rules aimed at cutting back nitrogen emissions. While other sectors, including construction, have also been hit, measures to curb the ammonia generated by livestock farming are a major part of government plans.

Nitrogen emissions are to be cut by more than 70% in areas close to nature conservation areas. According to government estimates, this could lead to the shutting down of around 30% of livestock farms.

A 2019 ruling by the country's highest court prompted the government to impose the measures.