Spanish milk producers turn to vending machines

3rd May 2009, Comments 0 comments

Some Spanish dairy farmers have responded to the plunging price of fresh milk by selling the product in vending machines, cutting out the middlemen and boosting income amid the economic crisis.

SALT - Some Spanish dairy farmers have responded to the plunging price of fresh milk by selling the product in vending machines, cutting out the middlemen and boosting income amid the economic crisis.

One such machine was installed in mid-April in a market of the northeastern town of Salt by a local farm which has 500 cows and a daily production of 17,000 litres.

The machine, which has a capacity of 375 litres (97.5 gallons), is often empty by mid-morning, said Maria Bosch, one of the farm's owners. "We are selling about 700 litres a day," she said.

The Italian-made device works like a coffee machine -- the customer places a jug or bottle under the tap, puts one euro in the slot and receives a litre of fresh milk.

"Quality, freshness and good prices, that's what people are increasingly looking for," said Jordi Fontanals, the market's manager. "That's why we decided to set this up in here."

This week, he plans to put in a second one.

Others have recently been installed or are planned elsewhere in the northeastern region of Catalonia and in the Basque Country and Asturias in the north, all major milk producing regions. Italian farmers also operate about 1,500 of them throughout the country.

The dairy farmers are responding to the fall in the price of milk, which has halved on average in Europe in the past 18 months.

A number of EU nations have called for milk production quotas slated for removal to be kept in place for now, saying the sector is fighting for survival because of plunging prices.

There have also been protests in a number of eastern EU nations, and the German milk producers' federation BDM has not ruled out "milk strikes" following similar action last year.

But by going straight to the customers, the Spanish dairy farmers can sell their milk at a higher price than through the big food processing companies.

The milk vending machine has been a boon to the small town of Salt, located in a rich agricultural region north of Barcelona.

"Some towns refused to use the machine and now they regret it as they have seen how successful it is," said Xavier Codina, another partner in the dairy farm.

At the Salt market, people line up to buy milk throughout the day.

"Last night at almost midnight there were still people using it," said Codina.

"This is a return to a healthy tradition: starting the day with a fresh product like milk," said the mayor of Salt, Yolanda Pineda, as she came to fill up a bottle from the machine, accompanied by her husband and two-year-old son.

"I am very happy because this has become very good news, at a time when we need good news."

AFP / Marcelo Aparicio / Expatica

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