FURIOUS French poultry farmers have smashed 200,000 eggs outside a tax office and supermarkets in Brittany in protest at low prices they blame on the European Union.
Egg producers insist their profits have been slashed following an EU directive passed last year aimed at protecting the wellbeing of hens.
The rules have sent production costs soaring, but the price of eggs has not risen as a result, farmers claim.
A group of 20 egg producers in the north-west region of France is now intent in destroying eggs to reduce supply and push up the price.
Farmers wearing masks hurled crates containing 100,000 eggs from the backs of lorries at supermarkets in the Côtes d’Armor on Tuesday night.
Then on Wednesday night they smashed pallets of another 100,000 eggs outside a tax office in Carhaix.
One shopkeeper in the town said: “The mess and the smell are dreadful, but they are making their point.”
The destruction of 100,000 eggs a day equates to 5 percent of the production of the poultry farmers involved in the collective.
The group is now calling for France’s entire egg production to be reduced by 5 per cent to raise prices, and asked the government to set up a specific area for eggs to be destroyed.
The farmers have vowed to smash 100,000 eggs a day until Sunday, from when they said their protest would become “more radical and with inevitable collateral damage”.
Poultry farmers are currently paid 63p per kilo of eggs, but the new EU directive means they cost 80p per kilo to produce, according to Yves-Marie Beaudet, the head of the egg section of the Brittany dairy farmers union.
The European Union had 15 to 20 million excess laying hens out of a total of 350 million, Mr Beaudet said.
He added: “Our livelihoods are threatened. We are ready to give these eggs we are destroying to developing countries, but they cannot stay on French territory.
“We need France’s entire egg production to be reduced by 5 per cent, and our protest will continue and escalate until that happens.”
The EU Welfare of Laying Hens Directive, which took effect on 1 January, 2012, requires that all laying hens must be kept in larger cages with extra space to nest, scratch and roost.
It initially caused a shortfall in French egg production, as many farmers were forced to stop selling their produce until they had upgraded their facilities.
French cake and bread makers issued an appeal to the government in March 2012, saying they would not be able to produce enough goods to satisfy national demand.
French farmers are notorious for their extreme protests. Two months ago, they herded thousands of cows, pigs and sheep through the streets of Paris in protest at falling meat prices.
More than 10,000 farmers attended that demonstration, complaining that farmers who raise animals earn one-quarter of the money of agriculturalists who grow crops.