More than 167,000 people signed a petition calling for the government to save Swedish dairy farmers, which was handed over to Minister of Rural Affairs Sven-Erik Bucht on Monday by some of the campaigners.
“The politicians need to realize that this is not just about the dairy farmers but also about what kind of food and what kind of Sweden we should have in the future,” Helena Jonsson, chairperson of the Federation of Swedish Farmers (Lantbrukarnas riksförbund, LRF), said in a statement after around 1,000 Swedish farmers rallied in Stockholm.
“Swedish milk creates jobs in Sweden,” reads the sign. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT
The protest saw milk farmers from all over Sweden travel to the Swedish capital on Monday, hoping to make an impact on the same day the Social Democrat-Green government presented its annual draft budget.
Farmers Rikard Mikaels and David Nilsson, who had driven their own tractors almost 500 kilometres from Lysekil on the west coast to the parliament, were among the campaigners.
“We dairy farmers are being wiped out. Taxes and laws mean that we simply can't compete on the same terms as others. This is about whether we want Swedish milk production or not. It's something the government has to think about now when they're planning the budget,” Mikaels told the Expressen tabloid ahead of the protest.
LRF wants to convince politicians to launch a series of measures designed to rescue milk production in Sweden, including financial support for farmers and raised diesel tax refunds for agriculture companies.
They also demand that the government ensures that a 76 million EU crisis package for the country's dairy farmers be paid out without delay.
“We enjoy incredibly great support from the consumers. (…) It feels as if we have our foot in the door. Farmers and consumers have presented a clear signal, it's now up to politics to deliver,” Jonsson told Expressen.
Swedish dairy farmers staged a protest in Stockholm on Monday. Photo: Jessica Gow
But the Swedish farmers are also fighting dwindling milk consumption at home. While household milk consumption in the European Union has remained relatively stable, in Sweden it has dropped by nearly half since 1980, as Swedes' dietary habits have changed.
“It’s related to a general anxiety (about food),” Maja Nordström, a dairy consumption expert at the LRF Milk lobby group, told the AFP news agency earlier this year.
“May I feed my children sugar? Should I eat meat, should I choose fish? It’s natural for people to question things,” she said.