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Business

German Dairy Farmers Call off Milk Strike

German dairy farmers called off a milk-delivery boycott Thursday after the 10-day strike prompted big grocery chains to offer higher wholesale rates for milk.

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German farmers will soon be delivering that beverage to retailers

Romuald Schaber, president of the BDM dairy farmers' association, told thousands of farmers gathered at Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate, "I ask you to resume delivering milk from this evening. The last bastion among the discount grocers will fall soon."

A firm agreement with retailers has not been reached yet, but the farmers won public sympathy and daily publicity as they picketed milk and cheese factories and poured fresh milk onto fields, down drains and into pig-feed troughs.

Retailers hike milk price

However the outcome also underlined the farmers' weakness. The loss of income after 10 days of waste was beginning to hurt many overstretched farmers and disunity marked the strike, which attracted less support from farmers with shares in dairy cooperatives.

An Austrian farmers' group, Vereinigung IG Milch, called off a matching boycott in Austria, saying many farmers had asked for a halt.

A major German discount grocer, Lidl, had said Wednesday it would hike the retail price of packed milk and appealed to competitors to follow suit.

Aldi Sued, one of the two companies that control Aldi discount upermarkets in Germany, said it too would discuss a price increase and two main operators of full-price supermarkets, Edeka and Rewe, said they were willing to pay more for milk.

The German farmers ceased deliveries to dairy factories on May 27 to underline their demand for at least 0.43 euros ($0.62) per liter for milk at the farm gate.

City-dwellers stared as thousands of farmers in overalls, many with tractors, rallied at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

Cow-bells rang and a huge cheer went up from the relieved farmers when Schaber announced the end of the boycott.

"We've still got a long way to go," said Schaber. "But the supermarkets and dairy industry will know now they can't mess with us. If they do, we'll drive back to Berlin with our tractors."

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