Milk strike ends at Brandenburg Gate

5th June 2008, Comments 0 comments

The 10-day strike ends after thousands of dairy producers showed up at the Berlin landmark to push for higher milk prices.

Berlin -- The lengthy milk strike in Germany was brought to an end Thursday afternoon after more than 7,000 people demonstrated at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate for higher milk prices. 

After hosting a number of speakers from across the Europe, Romuald Schaber, head of the BDM association of German dairy farmers, ended the 10-day-long milk strikes by calling farmers to start up deliveries again that evening. 

Dairy farmers went on strike demanding that milk prices rise to at least 43 euro cents per litre to support producers in the face of rising energy costs. This has seemingly had an effect: Milk has been growing scarce in shops and supermarkets for the past week and large discount supermarket Lidl recently offered to raise its prices by 10 euro cents per litre from Monday onwards. Other companies are now expected to take similar action. The price of milk is currently 28-34 euro cents per litre. 

Schaber commended all involved in the strike for their hard work and praised the solidarity of the movement as the key to applying pressure for higher prices. He also thanked the demonstrators for travelling to Berlin from all over the continent.

Other speakers conveyed a similar message, stressing the farmers work together as a movement to show their strength and build up pressure for their cause. There was also an air of defiance against opponents of the strike, with various speakers stressing the need to show "courage" and stay united. "If Europe wants enough to eat, they must buy it, not take it," said one speaker. 

The demonstration also had an international atmosphere, with speakers from Belgium, Switzerland and France present, and letters of support from Canadian and Brazilian farming organisations being read out to a jubilant crowd bearing cow bells and flags. One speech was in French, and was cheered on despite the language barrier.

Brandenburg Gate, a popular venue for epic political events such as the Dalai Lama's recent speech during a visit to Germany, was the scene for a unique demonstration. Signs and T-shirts bearing slogans "Milk built this body" and "Almost broke - it's not just the milk going sour" among others were not the only forms of protest, due to the bizarre costumes and farmers in overalls in the crowd.

The presence of farmers was also made obvious by the row of over 100 tractors parked before the gate, in a line that reached back past the famous Soviet memorial. A number of buses were stationed nearby to take people back home. The demonstration was peaceful, with only a small police presence at hand. 

Despite the optimism of the crowd, however, some felt the fight still had a long way to go.

"The mood was good here today but I feel unsatisfied with the strike," one farmer said. "The issue still isn't resolved. Lidl are raising milk prices on Monday but when will we see that money? Farmers will probably only get an extra cent from that and it won't make a difference." 

-- Dave Baxter 

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