Melkfabriek de Hoop – Baarle-Nassau, Netherlands - Atlas Obscura

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Melkfabriek de Hoop

Baarle-Nassau, Netherlands

This building once stood at the center of a butter war. 

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Not far from the house with two house numbers is a large industrial-looking brick building that would not draw a second glance from most passers-by. But this old milk factory was once the center of an international milk war, which was then followed by a butter war.

The building was built in 1904, spearheaded by father Van de Elsen, as the milk processing center of a  milk cooperative for farmers in the area. Because this is the border town of Baarle, both Belgian and Dutch farmers joined the cooperative.

For several decades things went splashingly, with the factory slowly growing and expanding. However, things changed during the 1950s when margarine became popular in the Netherlands, to the point where demand for butter went down drastically. In Belgium on the other hand, butter was going strong, and thus prices started to vary more and more between the two countries. This price difference led to an active smuggling culture, but also to fights between Belgian farmers and the Dutch milk factory. 

The Belgians wanted to be paid more for their milk, like they would be if they sold to Belgium, but the factory insisted on Dutch prices. Eventually, the negotiations failed and all but two Belgian farmers withdrew from the cooperative in 1954, selling their milk to a Belgian factory farther away instead. 

The factory survived this war and even made a healthy profit during the butter wars by selling butter to smugglers at a premium. The factory closed several decades later when production was centralized into one company called Campina. These days the building is home to a tile shop.

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