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Thursday, Sept. 11, 2008

Farmers demand ¥10 hike in milk price


Staff writer

Dairy farmers asked milk manufacturers Wednesday to pay them more for raw milk because the rising cost of livestock feed is threatening their livelihood.

The farmers are demanding a hike of around ¥10 per kilogram, backed by an increase in retail prices sometime in October. But the talks are in a stalemate, officials said.

Milk prices rose ¥3 nationwide in April — the first increase in 30 years. But the relief provided by the hike was just like "pouring water onto a burning stone," said Hirofumi Maeda of the Japan Dairy Council. It vaporized.

According to the council, feed prices have risen roughly 1 1/2 times in the past two years because of soaring demand for corn to make biofuels in the United States and higher crude oil prices.

Compared with other items, the hike in milk prices was small, Maeda said. Retail prices for bread and spaghetti, for instance, have risen more than 20 percent in the past year, according to the council.

Maeda said that while milk prices have been almost flat in Japan, milk prices overseas are rising to cope with increasing animal feed and other costs.

"I frankly question why milk prices will not go up in Japan," he said. "There is a constant possibility that milk and dairy products might be in short supply in our nation."

Mayumi Oyabu, a farmer from Kumamoto Prefecture, said the tough environment has even forced her to cut her son's pay at the farm.

"Now I cannot give him even half" of what she used to pay, she said. "I do not know what is going to happen," Oyabu said "Raising milk prices is the only way to resolve this situation."

Another farmer added his voice to the argument.

"I am living each day not being able to know what to do," said Yoshiki Soma from Tochigi Prefecture. "I have no more options left."

He added that no matter how hard he works, he still won't be able to earn enough.



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