Raw milk prices drop; Latvia's farmers consider boycotting supermarkets

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Latvian dairy farmers have observed a drop in milk prices, and the discontent is growing. It is also encouraged by the high price of dairy products in stores. Farmers are also considering taking action, including a boycott of supermarkets, said the Farmers' Saeima association to Latvian Television on February 5.

The price drop lacks explanation. At the same time, farmers draw attention to the high number of foreign dairy products on the shelves of shops.

"Farmers are considering the idea that we could probably choose a tactic of blocking warehouses and bases of leading stores' trading chains. In order to demonstrate to some extent the attitude shown by shop chains towards Latvian farmers and the dairy livestock sector," said Mārtiņš Trons, board member of the Farmers Saeima.

Mirdza Feldmane, board member of the Latvian Agricultural Cooperatives Association, said: “For Latvians, they are exactly the same procurement prices as for Lithuanians. They are just dramatic, dropping by 40-50%. It's not serious. In the winter months! Some are saying that in summer there were very good milk buying prices, they were the average European procurement prices at last."

Vizma Sileniece, a farmer of the Dienvidkurzeme region, told Latvian Radio that with the long years working in the sector she was prepared for fluctuations in milk prices, but this was the steepest drop in her experience.

"It's really very drastic. The maximum price for our holding was 54 cents on September 1, then at the end of September, there was already a letter to cut by 4 cents. Then later it was reduced, and now we have received a letter from the combine that we have a milk price of 34 cents. We passed nearly 10 tonnes in two days, and of course, we were very happy when there was a higher price because we could really work, repair the barns, and plan for more repairs. This means that there will now be stagnation," said the dairy producer.

The head of the Piena loģistika (“Milk Logistics”) cooperative, Agris Ludriksons, said he gave milk to several processors in Latvia and Lithuania to reallocate risks, but despite this, the price of milk has also fallen by more than 40% in recent months.

The co-op began work eight years ago with 30 members, now it has 70. Although farmers do not currently eliminate large-scale dairy herds or close their farms, the instability in certain farms makes it necessary to change their business.

"I think that the main reason why livestock farming is disappearing, in the long run, is the inability to reach an average standard of living for the owners and employees of these farms. That constant level of stress, when you are drowning in debt; when the price is up, you breathe in and then the price falls again. It is also partly the fault of the farmers themselves, because there is still no proper cooperation, with five dairy collectors in one parish within a kilometer. However, the Ministry of Agriculture has also not targeted it to promote the development of really stable, orderly milk cooperation," considers the farmer Ieva Alpa-Eizenberga.

In Latvia, only 35% of the total quantity of milk purchased in processing is used for local products, while the other is exported in the form of raw milk or products. Processors pointed out that the purchase price of milk depends on the situation in Europe, where a stockpile of butter, dry products, and industrial dairy products is currently in place, resulting in a decrease in their demand and prices.

The industry will meet with Agriculture Minister Didzis Šmits (United List), but action is expected at the level of the government.

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