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Several cows lifting their heads up to a bucket of milk
Dairy farmers over Europe have protested plummeting milk pricesImage: AP

Milk strike

September 10, 2009

French dairy farmers, upset that EU agriculture ministers haven't found solutions for low prices, plan to strike later Thursday. They will demand higher prices and milk production quota cuts.


French dairy farmers, upset about plummeting milk prices, plan to boycott deliveries to dairies and creameries and instead donate their milk to charitable organizations.

French farmers hope their strike will spread across Europe.

"I call for producers to open the floodgates after this evening's milking," said Pascal Massol, president of the French union APLI.

However, Germany's association of dairy farmers said it would not take part in the protests. German judges have ruled it is illegal for German dairy farmers to organize boycotts under competition law, leaving German farmers to decide for themselves.

"The association is not allowed to call for it, and won't be calling for it," said a spokesman for the German Dairy Farmers' Federation.

The federation is also feeling pressure from the country's Federal Cartel Office, which threatened to fine the group were they to organize another strike such as the one seen last year.

A woman reaches for a milk carton in a supermarket fridge
In some European countries, milk prices have dropped dramaticallyImage: AP

Ministers remain divided

EU agriculture ministers remain divided on whether to reduce the effects of a gradual phase out of milk quotas by 2014-2015. The European Commission's plan to end the quota system is met with hostility by farmers, who claim it would lead to a drastic drop in prices.

Numerous protests had surfaced in recent months, where European farmers resorted to pouring litres of milk onto streets in front of government offices and used cows to block streets.

"EU farm ministers' failure to make a decision meant that the disastrous situations facing EU dairy farmers will continue," said Padraig Walshe, president of the Copa-Cogeca agriculture union. "Many famers will go out of business whilst waiting for EU politicians to take action."

The European dairy industry experienced a collapse in prices due to low demand brought about by the financial and economic crisis. In some countries, milk prices dropped by 50 percent over a period of two years.

Ministers agreed to lift milk production quotas by one percent a year until dropping them completely by 2015. By striking, Germany and other European countries hope to get government aid or to limit supplies.

Editor: Trinity Hartman

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