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Drop in milk price lowers agriculture income

The falling price of milk has led to a 7.6 per cent drop in Swiss agricultural income, the government has said.

The sliding milk price was the "main cause" for the projected SFr235 million ($227 million) in income that will be lost from the sector in 2009 compared with 2008, according to initial estimates by the Federal Statistics Office.

The cost price of milk has fallen on average by around 13 per cent in one year. The office said a number of factors had influenced the milk market in 2009, including international demand.

The agricultural sector is estimated to generate SFr2.9 billion in income in 2009. A five per cent drop in output compared with the previous year has been triggered mainly by the fall in prices for products such as milk and cereals.

The office said the number of people employed in the agricultural sector was also declining.

Around 50 per cent of the value of Swiss agricultural output is animal production based, of which half again centres on milk-based production.

Also on Monday hundreds of dairy farmers drove tractors into Belgium's capital to pressure European Union farm ministers on declining milk prices, as 20 of 27 member nations called for more protection from the volatile world market.

About 1,000 farmers from Germany, France and other EU nations protested outside the emergency meeting, throwing bottles and eggs at police, and burning tires and hay. and agencies