Accepted Paper:

"A common sense rule: the milk cannot be sold below production cost": market milk price and the value of milk in Sardinia  

Authors:

Marco Pitzalis (Università di Cagliari)
Filippo Zerilli

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on fieldwork conducted within ‘Movimento Pastori Sardi’, a social movement of sheep herders mobilizing to protect their dairy farms and affirm their political agency, this paper explores the complex intertwinement between market milk price, and the value of milk according to the shepherds themselves.

Paper long abstract:

At current market prices, Sardinian sheep milk achieves around €0,70/liter and costs approximately €1,00/liter to produce. Hence, it is sold below production cost, despite 'a common sense rule' as reminded us by the leader of the Sardinian shepherds' movement. Drawing on fieldwork conducted with(in) 'Movimento Pastori Sardi' (MPS), a social movement of sheep herders mobilizing to protect their dairy farms and affirm their political agency, this paper explores the complex intertwinement between market milk price, and the value of milk according to the shepherds themselves. First we will try to disentangle the puzzling issue of the global and local fluctuations of the Sardinian sheep milk price in the context of the current international financial crisis. Using interviews as well as other sources we will ask how milk prices are actually established and negotiated in given transactions in which a number of individual and institutional actors participate (the international dairy industry, agropastoral cooperatives, trade unions, academic experts, policy makers and their bureaucratic apparatuses). In a second move, focusing on shepherds' claims and their prospective revolutionary projects we will scrutinize the value of milk, namely the social and economic value assigned to the action of producing milk, including a number of parallel labour activities such as forest and environmental protection, animal welfare, sustainable agricultural development etc. Finally, we will suggest how elaborating on milk price and milk value as closely intertwined the shepherds of MPS self-represent themselves as an emerging ruling class driving Sardinia towards alternatives sovereignties (alimentary, energetic, fiscal, and finally political) challenging neoliberal global policies.

Panel P15
Labour, market and policy: European shepherds today