French farmers are occupying an intersection outside the headquarters of dairy giant Lactalis and crying for help as they struggle to compete with cheaper countries in Europe's single market.

A glut of milk and diving dairy prices are forcing French farms to sell below cost. Farmers' unions want big companies to pay more for milk than current market prices, to keep French agriculture alive.

Their protest in the western France city of Laval on Monday is targeting Lactalis, which produces Parmalat cheeses, President butter and many other dairy products on European supermarket shelves.

Lactalis argues the problem is overproduction. Spokesman Michel Nalet said on France-Inter radio that other European producers accept lower prices for their milk, and it doesn't make financial sense for his company to pay French producers more.