French farm leaders and dairy giant Lactalis have agreed a new milk pricing structure for the rest of the year which will see farmers’ returns increase by 7%.
The deal emerged on Tuesday afternoon (30 August) after three rounds of talks and a week of demonstrations involving thousands of farmers.
According to French press reports, the agreement means farmers will see their milk price increase from by €5 (£4.26) per 1000 litres of milk, for every month until the end of the year. This means by the end of 2016 the milk price will be in the region of €300 (£255) per 1000 litres of milk.
In return, farm leaders have agreed to suspend all demonstrations at Lactalis sites. Dominique Barrau, FNSEA deputy general, said the agreement was a good “first step”. Lactalis buys about 20% of all milk in France.
French farmers have escalated their protests against dairy processor Lactalis, staging demonstrations at multiple locations across the country.
Producers have already held a week-long blockade outside the headquarters of the dairy giant as they fight for an increase in the milk price.
But on Monday (29 August), the French farming union FNSEA also published a map of 15 other locations where additional protests have since taken place.
At some sites, farmers dumped straw and muck, while at others, producers dropped off trailers loads of tyres in order to disrupt operations.
There was also action in several supermarkets, with farmers clearing shelves of products made by Lactalis in a bid to apply further pressure to the company.
Posts on social media highlighted the tactics applied by the protesters.
— FNSEA 79 (@FNSEA79) August 30, 2016
— Céline Blampain (@celineblampain) August 30, 2016
— FDSEA 28 (@FDSEA28) August 30, 2016
In response to the protests, Lactalis has agreed to further talks about an increase in the milk price which will resume on Tuesday (30 August).
The company pays its suppliers about €257 (£221) per 1,000 litres of milk, which is about €30 (£26) less than other French milk processors and the lowest price offered since 2009.
Farm leaders are pushing for a price of about €290 (£247.50) per 1,000 litres, but to date Lactalis has only offered an extra €15 (£12.80) per 1,000 litres.
The Young Farmers association in France (Jeune Agriculteurs), one of the organisations behind the protests, said it had been pushed into taking further action because Lactalis had failed to put an acceptable price proposal on the table.
In doing so, it had treated its suppliers with “contempt”, it said.
Jeune Agriculteurs has already warned if negotiations break down again it will be calling for retailers to remove Lactel milk from their shelves and replace it with milk sourced from the French co-operative Candia.
It will also lobby for Lactalis milk products to be removed from all school canteens.