French farmers dump milk in protest against low prices
French farmers dumped gallons of milk and piles of manure in front of government offices on Tuesday.
French farmers dumped gallons of milk and piles of manure in front of government offices on Tuesday to demand that the EU reverse its liberalisation of milk quotas, which they said had led to a collapse in prices.
In western and northern dairy regions, they also blockaded distribution centres with tractors to denounce food processing firms which they said paid low prices to producers while making huge margins on finished products.
"Today, in supermarkets, consumers pay 86 euro cents for a litre of milk but producers are only getting paid 20 cents," said Linda Monnier of the FNSEA farmers' union at a protest in the western city of Nantes.
Farmers there fired a cannon normally used to scare birds away from crops to make sure authorities heard their protest.
Market and regulatory factors have combined to push the price paid to milk producers down by 30 percent in a year to a record low of 205 euros ($278) for 1,000 litres, badly hurting France's 88,000 dairy farms, according to FNSEA figures.
One of the reasons is an increase in EU milk quotas, agreed by the 27 member states, which has just come into force and is a first step towards the bloc's goal to eliminate milk quotas altogether by 2015 to liberalise the market.
Some of the farmers were planning to meet up with colleagues from other EU countries in Brussels to protest there.
EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Brussels was studying measures to help dairy farmers.
"I am considering what we can do to ease the situation, in particular whether we can bring forward payments that are normally not made until December," he said on France 2 TV.
As well as the issue of quotas, the dairy farmers were angry about the fact that processing companies were paying less for the raw material but charging as much as before to consumers for products like yoghurts or cheese.
"Some of the companies in this sector are getting rich on the back not only of producers but of consumers too," said Christophe Sable, a dairy farmers' union leader in Nantes.
He called for a fairer sharing of the profits of the dairy industry between producers, processors and distributors.
Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier said he was appointing a team of mediators to try to reach an agreement between the different players.
"This difficult situation is not specific to France, it results from a surplus of milk on the European and world markets," Barnier said in a statement.