Milk strike could hit shop supplies

Farmers have started throwing away their produce in protest at falling prices and proposed changes to market regulation

FRESH dairy could start to disappear from supermarket shelves early next week after 30,000 French milk producers walked out on strike.

Independent milk producers’ association APLI has called the strike in France, Germany and the Netherlands in protest at falling prices and EU plans to deregulate the market.

Cows will continue to be milked to ensure they do not become ill, but their produce will be thrown away or donated to charity.

Supplies of UHT milk in supermarkets will not be affected, but fresh milk and other dairy produce such as yoghurts could start to become scarce on the shelves by next Tuesday.

The union’s French members – about a third of all the dairy farmers in the country - are unhappy with the prices negotiated by the industry’s biggest union, FNSEA.

The wholesale price for a 1,000 litres of milk in France is currently in the region of €260 to €280. Farmers say any less than €350 to €400 puts them in severe financial difficulty.

They are also concerned about EU plans to scrap production quotas in 2015, which they fear will lead to an over-supply of milk and, as a result, a further drop in prices.

One producer in the Finistère told Libération said she was losing €20,000 a year. Another producer, in the Manche in Normandy, said he could go bust by the end of the year as he faced losses of between €2,000 and €3,000 a month.

Not everyone supports the strike. The FNSEA union president Jean-Michel Lemétayer said it was an “aberration” for milk producers to throw away their produce.

Another union, the Conféderation Paysanne has also decided not to endorse the action. It said the move was a big financial risk at a time when producers needed all the income they could get – and it would take at least a month before consumers would be seriously disadvantaged.

The Association des Transformateurs de Lait said it did not think the strike would be widely followed.