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Q Catherine Mellange, who farms in partnership with three other French farmers in Normandy, has not had her milk collected for over a week, preferring instead to pour it away.

She is one of thousands of French dairy farmers who have taken part in the wave of milk protests sweeping the country, in an attempt to raise prices.

Catherine, who originates from Herefordshire, but now milks 120 cows near Carrouges in Normandy, said the root of the problem was when the Sarkozy government scrapped the old system of setting milk prices and introduced free market contracts. “Our milk price dropped by 10 cents/litre (9p/litre) almost overnight,” she said. She is now receiving just 21 cents/litre (18.7p/litre).

Support was really growing for the milk strike, she told Farmers Weekly. “A week ago we had a demonstration in our town and there were about 10 farmers present. This week there were 50.”

As well as withholding 20,000 litres of milk so far, she also took part in a milk spraying demonstration by more than 300 French dairy farmers near Mont St Michel on the French coast last Friday (18 September).

“There were eight tractors from our area and it took us five hours to get there, towing slurry spreaders full of milk. It was an impressive display, especially since the organisers only had 36 hours to arrange it.

“This is not a demo just about the milk price,” she added. “It is about saving our way of life. Reducing the number of dairy farmers means the death of the countryside, especially since the farmers most affected by this crisis are the ones just starting and with large investments.

“Controlling milk production is the only solution. Consumers will not lose out. Just look at the UK, which is deregulated and shows how farmgate prices are reduced, but shop prices increase.”

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