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Swiss farmers threaten a milk strike

Swiss milk producers are demanding an increase in the price of milk

(Keystone)

Rural "grassroots organisations" are threatening a concerted strike across Europe if demands for an increase in the price of milk are not met.

Critics blamed the "dramatic situation" of milk producers on farmers' representatives, saying they no longer had the courage to defend their members.

Martin Haab, from the farmers' interest group BIG-M, on Tuesday demanded on behalf of milk producers in 11 European countries that the producers' milk price be almost doubled to SFr1.11.

If this demand is not met, a strike would be called and shelves in shops would be empty within three days.

Josef Kunz, from the rightwing Swiss People's Party, said the situation facing milk producers in Switzerland was "dramatic" and that the Swiss Farmers Association and the Swiss Milk Producers had lost the courage to make price demands.

He said farmers were now supplying milk at around SFr1 billion ($770 million) less than in 1990, but over that period the price for consumers had risen by 15 per cent.

Kunz said sectors further down the line had swallowed the billion francs and that farmers had to ensure that the "price annihilation policy" be stopped.

Kunz said both organisations supported negotiation, lobbying, goodwill and resolution, but added that grassroots farmers no longer believed this strategy would work.

Haab said the stakes were of national importance. "Try to imagine Switzerland without milk-making cows, without typical cheeses. Would it be the same Switzerland?" he asked.

"If you have to hesitate, ask someone from Japan or America..."

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The number of milk producers fell from 44,360 in 1995/6 to 33,072 in 2003/4.
The number of cows also fell from 615,000 to 587,400.
The average amount of milk produced per cow in 2000/1 was 4,994kg, in 2003/4 5,230kg.
In 2004 some 1,600 milk producers closed in Switzerland – 4.6 per cent of the total.

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