Czech farmers join German protests against low milk prices

Photo: CTK

Czech farmers have started pouring away thousands of litres of milk which could not be delivered to German diaries, picketed by local farmers protesting against low milk prices. In support of the protest, farmers across the country will also cut down milk supplies to Czech processing diaries by 10 percent.

Photo: CTK
Dropping prices of milk have made German farmers boycott the country’s processing plants that also buy up Czech milk. On Tuesday, deliveries of some 325,000 litres of milk were returned to Czech Republic and Czech dairy farmers resorted to a move unheard of in the country’s history: they started feeding the excess milk to farm animals, spraying it on fields or just pouring it away. David Novák is a farmer in Uhersko, eastern Bohemia.

“I had to pour out some milk, just to be able to milk my cows again. My heart sank when I was pouring it out, it was really crazy. I was even considering telling people in my village to come and get milk for free, but if I did that they would be back the next day expecting more; it’s not easy. I hope I won’t have to do it again because some German producers have promised to take our milk.”

Czech milk exports have risen a hundred times since the country joined the European Union in 2004; last year, the Czech Republic exported around 200 million litres, one third of that to Germany. These exports have now been halted, and the milk is ending up in the fields and in cesspits. While Agriculture Minister Petr Gandalovič denounced this form of protest as immoral, Czech farmers are sticking up for their German colleagues. To enforce a price rise, they will reduce milk supplies to Czech diaries by 10 percent, starting on Friday. Jan Veleba, the head of the Czech Agrarian Chamber, has suggested the public can help as well.

Jan Veleba
“They can help us in a very simple way: buying more Czech dairy products will help get rid of the surplus and renew a balance on the market. When that happens, the pressure will cease and the situation will stabilise, which is not the case in Germany at the moment.”

As the shortage of milk in German supermarkets is beginning to be felt, farmers have agreed to lift the blockade but the boycott of milk deliveries will continue. Higher consumption could be one part of the solution, but farmers say supermarket chains must stop pushing for prices that are far below farmers’ production costs, and pay at least 43 cents per litre of milk, instead of the current 34.