WHILE the dry start to autumn coupled with Australia's two biggest dairy companies, Murray Goulburn and Fonterra retrospectively slashing farmgate milk prices has seen farmers’ confidence significantly diminished, the tremendous show of support by consumers is helping to restore it.
Social media has been awash with calls to boycott supermarket $1 milk and support local farmers by only buying branded milk.
Last week Queensland dairy farmers and their supporters rallied outside Queensland parliament house to call on retailers to put an end to the $1 milk price war that has plagued the industry since 2011.
Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) president Brian Tessman said there had been an overwhelming level of community support and interest since the industry’s woes were made public last month.
“QDO has been encouraging consumers to buy branded milk since 2011 so it is heartening to see that the message is again circulating and getting traction with consumers.”
4Real Milk farmer Greg Dennis reported their milk sales last week broke their previous record by close to 25 per cent, with almost 40,000 litres of milk alone supplied to stores. With demand for the local farmer’s produce at an all-time high, Monday saw the Beaudesert dairy farm attain a new processing record of 16,000 litres.
Mr Dennis said he was overwhelmed by the show of support and hoped it would continue.
“The key to our survival is not just the excitement of last week or this week but every single week moving forward,” he said.
Mr Tessman said since Coles started $1 milk in 2011, more than $200 million dollars a year had been stripped out of the dairy supply chain and the already small margins for dairy farmers were slashed.
“With all major retailers undervaluing milk we have seen many Queensland dairy farmers leave in the industry as it no longer become profitable for them to continue.”
The QDO said the Logan and Beaudesert regions alone have seen a decrease of almost 50 per cent in the number of operational dairy farms in the last ten years.
In 2006 there were no less than 107 operational dairy farms in the area, today there are just 61.
“Since 2011 more than 170 dairy farmers have left the Queensland industry when we have been short of fresh milk and should not have lost any. This equates to a loss of some 170 million litres of milk production per annum and some $550 million in milk production investment and more than 580 on farm jobs. Queensland will import some 180 million litre this year from interstate to meet the needs of Queensland consumers. This should not be happening,” Mr Tessman said.
Member for Beaudesert Jon Krause said the $1 price wars had decimated the Queensland industry since it came about five years ago.
"$1 a litre milk can't go on if we want to have fresh, local milk to drink in the future,” he said.
“Farmers are being paid the same or less for their milk than 20 years ago - who else can cop no payrise for 20 years?”
He is encouraging everyone to support our dairy farmers and buy local, branded milk - not supermarket brands.
“Coles and Woolworths have a responsibility to ensure our local dairy farmers can make a living so they can supply us all with fresh, local milk - not UHT milk or milk trucked all the way from Victoria. I again call on Coles and Woolworths in particular to ensure our local dairy farmers can make a living.”
In the face of the challenges faced by farmers, national agribusiness Ruralco announced it was working with Lifeline to grow public awareness of the national charity’s crisis support services and facilitate resilience training in communities affected by the dairy crisis. Travis Dillon, Managing Director and CEO of Ruralco said many of Australia’s dairy farmers are facing financial crisis in the wake of the announced cuts to the milk solids price.
“The best way for Queenslanders to support local Queensland dairy farmers is to buy branded milk and dairy products as it adds value to the product and ensures our farmers are paid the fair price at the farm gate they deserve.”
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