Gallery: Estonia’s milk producers protest lack of state support (2)
Estonia’s milk producers protested outside the Riigikogu on Monday, setting up tens of thousands of milk bottles on Lossi Square. Each bottle came with the name of a cow, and the date when the animal was taken to the slaughterhouse. The milk was later given to the Food Bank charity.
Estonia is one of the European Union’s most effective milk producers, only the Danes have a bigger yield per animal. Overproduction has been an issue for several years, with the price of milk paid to the farmers having reached an all-time low, while dairy producers continue to operate with healthy margins.
Raul Soodla, chairman of Jõgeva County’s milk producers’ association, said that Lithuania’s dairy producers were able to receive at least 1,000 tonnes of raw milk a day. There was only one company in Estonia capable of processing comparable amounts, and that one wasn’t doing well, Soodla said.
The Lithuanian milk producers aren’t as effective as their Estonian colleagues, which is why they see them as competitors. Because of this, four Estonian unions with a daily production of about 700 tons of milk a day are looking for another way out.
Soodla said that they were trying to get things done by themselves and looking to the Scandinavian markets, as these were stable, clearly regulated, and not too far away. Transporting milk is expensive, which is why this last point is important.
The 10,000 milk bottles set up on Lossi Square for the protest were given to the Food Bank charity as well as to bystanders and astonished tourists.
Economics professor Karsten Staehr of the Tallinn University of Technology pointed out that the overproduction of milk was a world-wide problem, and not limited to the European Union and Estonia.
The current milk prices had reached a historic low, Staehr said, and it was very difficult to predict when prices would improve. According to Staehr’s assessment, it is also difficult for the Estonian state to come to the producers’ help, as intervention would mean a similar violation of EU competition principles as state help paid to Estonian Air back in the day.
(Images by Hanna Samoson/ERR)