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Last Updated: Monday, 8 September 2003, 13:42 GMT 14:42 UK
Dairy farmers North and South
Trade talks resume in Hong Kong on 13 December. Rich and poor nations are trying to strike a global trade deal amid complaints that unfair subsidies to farmers in rich countries have crippled agriculture in poor countries.

For many of the world's poor, agriculture remains their most important source of livelihood. But dairy farmers in the EU get an average subsidy of $2,000 per cow, 100 times more than foreign aid per person given to Africa.

MALICK BARRY, Foret classee des monts mandingues, Mali

I have been a herder since I was 7 or 8 years old, following in my father's footsteps.

I am 20 now, and it is the only job I have ever done.

I follow the animals, take them to pasture, and milk them myself.

I look after 14 cows, and I know them all individually.

My day is a long one. I wake up at 6 o'clock, by the light of the sun.

My first job is to milk the cows.

Afterwards I have my breakfast: anything I can find in the forest, like fruits or berries, and some milk.

Then I take my herd out into the forest, to places where I know there will be grass to eat. It usually takes me an hour to walk there.

I don't get back until about six in the evening, when I milk the cows, watch over them, and have something to eat myself.

Sometimes it is difficult to be a herder, particularly if it is very hot or if it rains.

The hardest thing though, particularly now in the rainy season, is keeping the cows out of other people's fields, where they would do a lot of damage.

If that happens, there are always arguments, and often the police get involved.

At the end of every month, I am paid 10,000 CFA francs (10, $16).

It's not enough, but I don't have much choice.

I am married, and have to be responsible.

My wife, Awa, is in Burkina Faso, where I used to live. I haven't seen her for five months now.

All in all, I am happy in what I do, and I think I will stay in this job if I can't find anything else - after all, I was born into it.

SERGE LE DOARE, Quimper, Brittany, France

My working day normally begins at eight, checking the cows then milking and washing. After that it's feeding and cleaning the yard.

Other jobs depend on the season - keeping an eye on the calves, for example, or taking care of our maize and cereal crops.

We've got 98 hectares overall, and 115 cattle - 45 milking cows, 40 young females and 30 heifers for beef. Six hectares is "set-aside" taken out of production.

Our milk quota was set in 1985. It is for 304,000 litres, and we have to be very careful not to exceed it, otherwise we get fined - and the fine is more than the price we are paid.

If you produce too much, you have to just pour the milk away. Most of our milk is turned to milk powder.

Our income from the milk is about 90,000 euros (60,000) a year - that's at the EU's intervention price of 30 euro cents per litre.

Then we get a once-a-year pay-out of 15,000 euros under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) "set-aside" rules for taking arable land out of cultivation; and about 7,500 euros from the EU under its beef scheme.

Our income - excluding overheads and paying staff - is 30,000 euros, three-quarters of which comes in the form of EU grants.

If the price of milk falls further we will end up living entirely on hand-outs. But that is what some people are saying has to happen.

They say we need to bring the EU milk price more in line with the world market. But in New Zealand they can make milk at half the cost we pay here.

The whole system is mad, but for me it is all the madder because everyone is playing by different rules. I would accept any rules as long as they were the same for everyone.

I am not so much pessimistic as disabused. I no longer have any illusions about the future of this business.


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