Page last updated at 12:02 GMT, Wednesday, 4 June 2008 13:02 UK

German shops running out of milk

German farmer protests against milk prices (4 June 2008)
The farmers have relaxed their blockades

Shops in Germany say they are starting to run out of milk after days of protests by dairy farmers against what they say are unsustainably low prices.

The German milk industry federation said that blockades of milk processing plants by angry farmers had cost the industry nearly 50m euros (39.5m).

Protesters have also emptied milk tankers onto the ground.

Farmers are demanding a minimum price of 0.43 euros (0.34) a litre - at least 20% more than the current price.

They say rising fuel and feed costs have pushed up their operating costs but the retail price of milk has not increased correspondingly.

'Delivery bottlenecks'

Since the main dairy federation, BDM, began its strike on 27 May, retailers have been warning people not to rush out to buy milk, but at some of the big supermarkets supplies are now running low.

The discount supermarket chain Plus said it was seeing isolated shortages, but said it could cover them with stock from unaffected areas. Another chain, Real, also said supplies were running low at some locations.

Farmers poor milk down the drain (30 May 2008)
The farmers are determined to continue their action until they achieve success
BDM chairman Romuald Schaber

The director of the Association of the German Dairy Industry (MIV), Eckhard Heuser, also said its supplies were getting tight.

"There are delivery bottlenecks and they are increasing by the hour," he told the Financial Times Deutschland.

The MIV estimated that the strike had so far cost milk processing plants about 50m euros, but said the figure could be larger.

BDM chairman Romuald Schaber has called on his federation's 32,000 members to continue to refuse to deliver milk to dairies, although they will relax their blockades stopping deliveries by farmers not participating in the strike.

"The farmers are determined to continue their action until they achieve success," he said.

Agriculture Minister Horst Seehofer has stressed that a "rapid solution is in the interest of all" and that it is crucial for Germany not to become dependent on milk imports.

"With energy supplies, we have seen how such dependency can cause problems for the economy," he told the Passauer Neue Presse.

"Only if milk producers are able to exist will we avoid foreign purchases of raw materials that are important for food production," he added.

Milk producers in neighbouring countries, including Belgium, Austria and Switzerland, have urged dairy farmers to join the strike or not to export to Germany.

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