Farmers protest being milked

Dairy farmers dumped milk onto the roads in various parts of Greece yesterday to protest what they believe is the paltry price that dairy firms pay them for their produce while threatening to intensify their action. The protests took place in Macedonia, northern Greece, Thessaly, central Greece and on Crete as farmers say that their sector is being squeezed out of business because of the demands of dairy firms and the threat of cheap imported milk. According to European Union figures, more than 4,000 cattle farmers went out of business in Greece between 2001 and 2005. Some 7,000 were still operating last year. The main demonstration was in Larissa, where sheep and goat farmers asked for the price at which they sell sheep’s milk to rise by 5 cents to 1.10 euros per liter and for goat’s milk to be bought by dairy firms for 80 cents per liter – 10 cents more than the current price. The farmers said they will refuse to negotiate for the rest of the month with dairy firms about delivery dates for milk. Meanwhile, dairy farmers from Thessaloniki also dumped barrels of milk on the Thessaloniki-Kavala national road to protest the low market price of their product. The protest led to the highway being closed for some 10 minutes. They said that they want dairy firms to pay 5 cents more than the current rate of 35 cents per liter that milk producers receive. The farmers said that instead of agreeing to pay more for the milk, dairy firms set the price some time after they buy the produce. Farmers in Crete demanded that the shelf life of fresh milk be extended from five days to eight days and that imported milk be thoroughly checked.