Boycott leaders tell German farmers to ease milk price pickets

4th June 2008, Comments 0 comments

Senior members of the milk boycott movement tell radical farmers to end the picketing affecting farms not involved in the strike

Berlin -- Leaders of a milk producers' boycott in Germany told radical dairy farmers on Tuesday to end pickets that had stopped milk from non-striking farms entering dairy factories.

As farmers continued pouring tens of thousands of tons of milk down drains or fed it to animals. German supermarkets said supplies of some fresh-milk products were becoming tighter.

Amid warnings that blockades of dairy factories were illegal, Franz Grosse, a leader of the dairy farmer association BDM, said, "We recommend there be no escalation outside the factories, so that we can hold sober talks."

Farmers who had earlier sealed off the MUH factory in Pronsfield, Rhineland-Palatinate state and other milk plants backed tractors away from the entrances on Tuesday afternoon to let tanker trucks enter and packs of cheese, milk, butter and yoghurt leave.

The week old boycott was aimed at persuading the milk processing firms to set a minimum wholesale price to sell dairy produce to grocery chains. The dairy factories have threatened to sue BDM.

Burkhard Richter, a German lawyer specialising in competition issues, said boycotts were generally illegal under German law, and any agreement to boost milk prices would also be illegal.

Heinrich Rauert, a picket leader outside the Nordmilch company's Edewecht plant in northern Germany, said the company had threatened the picketers with a 500,000-euro (780,000-dollar) lawsuit. Riot police dragged away picketers on Monday at plants north of Hamburg.

Conservative farm leaders in the DBV national farmers' union have denounced the radical farmers for going beyond the law by mounting pickets. Retailers have criticised the strikers, but admitted the campaign was starting to affect stocks.

Germany's biggest grocery retailer, Edeka, said, "The full product range is no longer available in every supermarket." A discount grocery company, Tengelmann, also said there were some gaps in supply.

But the national retail federation denied there was any wide-scale shortage of milk in shops.

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