Last Thursday (24 September), next to a photo of Belgian farmers spraying milk on a field in protest against low milk prices, the Times reported:
"An emergency meeting over the collapse in the price of milk will be held by Europe's agriculture ministers in Brussels on October 5 (Carl Mortished reports). The crisis talks have been convened by Sweden as farmers in mainland Europe continue their 'milk strike', dumping hundreds of thousands of litres of milk on farmland.The sudden fall in the price of milk products worldwide is causing pain for dairy farmers at a time when the European Commission is unwinding its dairy support regime."
Mortished ended by pointing out, revealingly:
"The recent price collapse follows a surge in 2007 in global prices for milk powder and butter. This led to more production, which came on the market as the recession hit demand."
This is typical of what regularly happens under capitalism. It's how "the market" works. When the price goes up in some sector of production each business in that sector, in the hope of making more profits, plans to expand production assuming that it rather than its rivals will get the extra sales. The result is that, in the end, when the new productive capacity comes on stream it is found that more has been produced than can be sold.
There is "overproduction" in relation to paying demand not to real needs of course. In this particular case, no one can argue that there is not a crying need for milk powder in some parts of the world, as the papers are full of reports of famine in the Horn of Africa and of appeals for money to relieve this.
It is true that the small milk producers in some European countries, like small primary producers everywhere, are also victims of the vicissitudes of the world market which can't be controlled and of which we all have to suffer the consequences.
Yet another proof, if one were needed, that capitalism is not a system geared to meeting people's needs, and so should be replaced by one that is.