What price milk? Europe’s dairy farmers tour Brussels with plastic cows

EU milk products: soft cheese

Dairy farmers on May 27, 2024 wheeled plaster cows across the European Union (EU)’s capital Brussels, demanding fair milk rates. 

Some 100 protesters paraded before key EU offices demanding a legislation eradicating all milk product prices below production expenditure.

The farmers were also drumming up support for an EU version of Spain’s recent “unfair commercial practices”act. Kjartan Poulsen who heads the European Milk Board briefed Euronews that Spain’s law prohibits any commodity price below production costs.

He speculated that while production costs vary from nation to nation, they nevertheless show a widening gap, especially in Italy.

Italy’s Price Context

Italy’s production costs, apparently exceed the selling price by 15 Euro cents ($0.16), which means that milk producers sell at a loss. 

According to Roberto Cavaliere of the Po Valley Milk Producers’ Association, Italy’s milk companies spend “60 to 65 cents” to produce a liter of milk but earn only “50 cents” a liter. He added that this state of affairs has been in place for the past 25 years.

For this reason, 90,000 milk-producing firms in Italy had quit trade by 2023 from some 110,000 firms in 1997.

Historical EU Milk Product Prices Trace Downward Trend

Meanwhile in the rest of Europe, prices for milk products have either remained unchanged in 2024 or decreased.

Leading the decrease is Swiss hard cheese (Emmental). It dropped from the 690 Euro ($749.89) per 100-liter rate of January 1, 2023 to 607.1 Euro ($659.80) on May 6, 2024.  The price was 650 Euro ($706.42) per 100 liters at a near similar time on May 8, 2023. 

Milk prices, on the other hand, remained “steady” as 2023’s on May 6, 2024 at 46.34 Euro ($50.36) per 100 liters.  This was an 8% dip from the 2023 margin but analysts still hold the decrease as insignificant.

Cheese also fared ill with an 8.5% price decrease by May 6, 2024 in comparison with early May 2023. This time round, the decrease owes to improving world supplies.

Butter reversed fortunes at 538.8 Euro  ($585.7) per 100 kg on May 6, 2024, above 464.7 Euro ($505.04) of May 8, 2023.

Thus, low demand for milk products including skimmed milk and rising global production are partially responsible for EU’s dairy farmers’ price loss. 

EU Milk Statistics

How much milk do Europeans take per person per year? Europe (27 nations) has one of the world’s highest milk consumption per capita at 53.4 liters in 2022. Which country in Europe drinks most milk? In 2021, Denmark had the highest milk consumption per capita in Europe and the second in the world at 402.13 liters, followed by Montenegro at 396.34 liters. Only Malaysia in Asia had a higher consumption rate than the above. 

How many dairy cows does the European Union have? In 2023, the EU had the second highest dairy herd in the world after India, at 20 million heads. Which country in the EU has the most expensive whole milk? Sweden had the most expensive milk price in Europe in 2023 at $2 (1.84 Euro) per liter.