"Milk Market Burns": Farmers Kick Up a Stink Across Europe

EU - Highly publicised and at times disruptive farmer protests have taken place across Western Europe this summer in a variety of guises.
calendar icon 21 August 2015
clock icon 2 minute read

Notable demonstrations have ranged from Germans lighting bonfires to French farmers jeopardising road systems and supermarket access in response to world dairy prices sinking to lows not seen since 2002.

German farmer with bonfire to raise awareness of the losses farmers are making

The protests, also seen in Spain, the UK and Belgium, have been calling on supermarkets and legislators to address a crisis in prices that is seeing farmgate prices sink well adrift of production costs.

Emotions were high on Tuesday 18 August when thousands of farmers across Belgium, Spain and France engaged in separate demonstrations.

Liege airport was blockaded by over 600 dairy farmers with certain trading companies targeted.

On the same day, Spanish farmers snubbed an agreement for milk lower than 34 cents per litre and four supermarkets in southern France had milk products defaced by farming protestors.

Labels carrying the slogan “made from milk sold at a loss – farmers strangled” were fixed to items of Savencia group outlets.

Analysts blame a “perfect storm” of factors, including paltry demand for dairy products from China and Russia’s trade ban in retaliation to European sanctions for the conflict in Ukraine for exacerbating a glut in milk production following quota removal.

But its not just dairy farmers that have been protesting. Pork, arable, beef and vegetable prices have prompted demonstrations, often targeting supermarkets, across Europe.

Welsh farmers instigated “No Lamb Week” at the start of August to raise attention to British lamb by artificially keeping lambs at home to tighten supplies. Meanwhile, dairy farmers across the UK swept milk off shelves to buy and give away to shoppers.

In Germany, the price of all agricultural products has slumped to devalue the agricultural sector by a third, across fruit, vegetables,arable pork and dairy, said the German Farmers’ Association (DBV).

Measures taken by Spain’s government to address crippling dairy markets have only “served to consolidate” the fall in milk prices.

The Union of Small Farmers and Ranchers (UPA) said it was “very disappointed” at developments made during crisis talks on Wednesday.

They say it costs farmers 34 cents to produce a litre of milk and they currently get 28 cents.

Spanish farmers are calling for a “French-style” approach, where a minimum price is put in place, although ministers have resisted this, meaning farmers see themselves left open to the goodwill of “industry and distributors”.

In reply, the government dismissed a “minimum price” as contrary to European market rules.

A special European Commission meeting on 7 September will look to address the current dairy markets issue.

Michael Priestley

Michael Priestley
News Team - Editor

Mainly production and market stories on ruminants sector. Works closely with sustainability consultants at FAI Farms

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