“We are broke”, the unanimous cry of hundreds of milk producers against low prices at origin




Not even a week has passed since the first major demonstration in the countryside in the streets of the capital last Sunday, January 23, and the dairy sector has brought its demands to Madrid. Organizations like Union of Unions, OPL del Sur, OPL Nacional, the Talavera Stop Abuse Platform and Comera 'AGATA' They have concentrated in front of the Ministry of Agriculture in Atocha (Madrid) to conclude with a march in front of a nearby Mercadona. Hundreds of farmers have expressed their outrage at low prices at origin, far from the average production costs per liter estimated at around 40 cents of euros and that, in an average farm of between 130 and 150 breeding cows, is assuming losses up to 10,000 euros per month.

The message to Planas has been repeated throughout the morning: “Let the Food Chain Law be complied with!”. This Thursday, no representative of the Ministry has received the representatives of the protesters and, for the time being, the meeting of the Milk Table for next Monday, January 31, has been called off. In addition, this protest has coincided with the full negotiation for the renewal of many contracts with the industry dairy. For example, organizations such as OPL del Sur (Milk Producers Organization) have been meeting with Lactalis in recent weeks to sign new contracts.

In this sense, from the convening organizations, the figure of mediators in meetings with industry and distribution when concluding new contracts. A role that has been attributed to the AICA (Food Information and Control Agency)

"I no longer see where to get to pay"

This whole situation has been aggravated by the escalation of costs, especially by the rise in the price of cereals and electricity, which has put a group on the ropes that has suffered for years from a drain of farm closures, passing from about 232,000 in the 1990s to just 12,000 from the actuality. And the trend has not been reversed... This is the situation of Yolanda Serrano and Miguel who is responsible for Granjas 'Hermanos Miguel', both farms located in Talavera de la Reina (Toledo). The first has recognized ABC that “We are broke, we are going to liquidation and we have to pay 4,000 euros” . This rancher, who has inherited her farm from her parents, has pointed out that her farm is now for sale. In this sense, she has pointed out that she already has a job «because I cannot stand with the cows: she had money saved but she already owes enough in silos (wheat) and corn. I no longer see where to get to pay ». All this, despite having decreased the number of animals in his charge.

For his part, Miguel has recognized that if selling his farm would resolve all his debts, he would have already done so. «They pay us 0.32 euros/liter for milk when it costs us 0.40 euros/liter to produce it: Since August we have been selling milk at a loss”, explained this farmer. The increase in production costs has been the last straw for both: "The last feed truck cost me about 8,000 euros when a year ago it was 5,000 euros," explained Serrano. Nor do they have much faith in the effectiveness of the recently reformed Food Chain Law: "It is set to be, no one complies with it and then supermarkets raise the price, but do not pass it on to the producers»has criticized Miguel who asks that the price be raised by 10 cents.

In his opinion, it has been the industry that has benefited the most from the latest increases in the price of milk. “We want them to pay us for a liter of milk, but more than the production costs to be able to live”, has pointed out the co-owner of Granjas 'Hermanos Miguel' of Talavera de la Reina. This farm already owes a whopping 40,000 euros to the cooperative, which may stop serving them feed next month.

Criticism against large supermarkets

The demonstration, which ended in front of a Mercadona near Atocha, it has not ended with a spill of milk as in other towns outside the capital. They blame this large distributor for keeping part of the increases made in its private label milk and using it as a claim product to attract new customers.

Along these lines, the regional coordinator of USAGA/Union of Unions in Asturias Fernando Brown has reminded this newspaper that the mobilizations of dairy producers against distribution have been taking place since last September and that Mercadona has 35% market share in fluid milk. In this sense, he has recalled that this pressure has already had a positive result: the price of its private label has risen eight cents, «which in the best of cases has been passed on to us by the industry that collects our milk three cents from January 1 and, in some cases in the rest of Spain, 1 or 1.5 cents, even none. Brown has wondered where these cents are and demanded that the Law of the Chain be complied with, for which he has considered that Planas must have put pressure on industry and distribution. The representative of Unión de Uniones has regretted that the industry has not increased the base price and has given as an example, that this figure is in Asturias at 31.5 euros since April 2019 without subsequent increases.

Young ranchers 'ruined'

Brown has recalled that the remuneration they receive does not cover the production costs and does not allow them to face the payments derived from the investments made to modernize their operation with the incorporation of their son to the farm. In this sense, he has criticized that the young people who have joined the sector in 2019 “They are ruined and they have been given help, which they have not fully received, and the Treasury is already asking for their share”. For this reason, he has announced that Union of Unions will propose allocating this aid to farms that "betting on the future" have managed to stay. “Either they give us something to pay off those debts or we close”has insisted the person in charge of USAGA who doubts that the debts contracted can be repaid if the price at origin does not cover the production costs.

In any case, Brown has criticized the main dairy industry of French origin, which he accuses of seeking the ruin of the sector. "In the last six months, the situation has been critical»it is finished.

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