THE Balearic dairy sector is hoping that when the tests on the suspect Minorca mad cow case are finally completed, which should be this week, they prove negative as the mad cow crisis on the mainland has already brought the local industry to its knees with some farmers facing bankruptcy. The bottom falling out of the beef market, with the vast majority of consumers having turned their backs on beef, has not only hit the beef cattle sector but now the dairy industry. According to Joan Mas of the Farmers Union, the entire cattle sector is facing a drastic situation.
The drop in demand means that not even the dairy sector can sell calves for veal and that there are some 1'321 calves in Majorca which have got to be slaughtered urgently. Calves can only remain on dairy farms for 15 days and are then sold for between 25'000 and 30'000 pesetas per head and the longer the calves remain on the farms, they cost the farmers money in feed. As it was not profitable to own a farm in the Balearics before the crisis, now the situation is much worse, Mas said. As it is, Majorcan dairy farmers receive 12 to 15 pesetas less per litre of milk in comparison to their mainland colleagues, while in contrast, because of transport costs, animal feed is more expensive. Over the past few weeks the slaughter of cattle has dropped by nearly 90 per cent and if the calves are forced to wait any longer before going to slaughter, the quality of meat will suffer. The cattle community has again called on the authorities for help, but their hands are also tied by lack of funding and they are having to wait for economic aid from Brussels.