Farmers call for public help to get better prices from supermarkets


Boerenbond has called on the public to challenge supermarkets over what they pay farmers for milk in a campaign for fairer prices

“In real difficulty”

The farmers’ union Boerenbond will campaign to recruit members of the public to their cause of obtaining a fair price for milk from supermarket chains.

“For every litre of milk they sell, the farmer loses seven cents,” explained Boerenbond president Piet Vanthemsche on VRT radio. Pig farmers lose €15 to €20 per animal. “A number of businesses are in real difficulty,” he said. “They’re no longer making money.”

The main reason for the problems arising now is the Russian boycott of some EU agricultural products imposed a year ago, which has had a severe effect on agriculture in Flanders. The region produces the majority of the country’s output in some of the products such as fruit and pork.

Boerenbond would like to see supermarkets pay more for the milk they buy from dairy farmers: an increase of 10c for a one-litre carton of milk would make dairy farming viable again.

Earlier in the week, the Flemish Milk Board (FMB), a co-operative of milk producers, threatened to implement road-blocks similar to those used by French farmers, if their demand for a minimum price for milk that covered their costs was not met. French dairy farmers obtained a price increase of 4c a litre as a result of their actions.

“If tougher action is needed to get us a minimum price, then that will come,” said Rik De Koninck of FMB. “This is all about the survival of our farmers and their farms.”

Vanthemsche does not support such action. “The readiness to take action is strong among a section of our farmers,” he said. “They’re having a hard time while the rest of the country goes on holiday. I understand their frustration, but I think there’s a way of engaging society effectively without causing major disruption. I want customers to ask in the supermarket whether the farmer got a fair price for his milk. Let the people put pressure on the supermarkets. The supermarkets set the prices, so that’s who we have to deal with.”

According to a poll of more than 2,500 people in Het Nieuwsblad, more than 80% of the public would be prepared to pay 10c more for their milk to ensure farmers a fair price.

Photo: Farmers in France demonstrate against low prices

© Uli Deck/dpa/Corbis