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Milk misery for Xinjiang farmers

FARMERS in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have to dump their milk and slaughter their cows as sales of milk products in the country's second-largest milk source plunged almost to a standstill after the nationwide milk scandal last September.

Nearly 20 tons of milk have been dumped every day since last month by farmers in northwestern region, while they have also started to sell their cows to slaughterhouses. "The more cattle they raise, the more they lose," according to a report by, a local official news Website.

Twenty-two domestic dairy companies were caught in September selling infant formula contaminated with melamine, a chemical added to make diluted milk appear to contain adequate protein.

Milk powder from those products was blamed for the deaths of at least six infants and causing kidney stones and urinary tract problems in almost 300,000 others.

Customers' concerns about whether domestic milk products are safe have given foreign brands more share of the Chinese market, pressing people such as Ma Zhanfu, a farmer in Xinjiang's Urumqi City, to face a dilemma: kill the cows or suffer mounting costs for their upkeep.

Each cow consumes 15 kilograms of feed every day, with each kilogram costing 2.08 yuan (30 US cents), Ma told the People's Daily.

Other costs for raising the cows include water and power supplies, he added.

Each cow can produce about 28kg of milk every day. However, the price of 1kg of unprocessed milk has plunged to less than 1.3 yuan on the local market, which means incomes from milk sales can hardly cover farmers' costs.

Ma said he is forced to sell his cows to slaughterhouses for 7,000 yuan each. However, he spent 14,000 yuan buying each one a year ago.

A worker at a Urumqi slaughterhouse told the Beijing-based newspaper that the number of cows slaughtered at his slaughterhouse was less than 20 each day a year ago. Now, the number was more than 100.

The amount of unsold milk powder in Xinjiang has shot up to more than 6,000 tons, while the price of the powder has slumped to 17,000 yuan a ton from a peak of more than 30,000 yuan in 2007, according to the report.


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