Saturday June 1 is World Milk Day. It is meant to be a celebration of the dairy industry and an acknowledgement of the value of dairy in our diet and lifestyle.
This year however, we need the International Milk Day to be used to highlight the desperate state of the dairy industry in Queensland.
The bald fact is that the Queensland dairy industry can no longer meet its domestic market consumption requirements and we are unlikely to recover production volumes to meet domestic demand.
Drought conditions and the poor farmgate price for raw milk have led many farmers to sell up and leave the industry. Not only is this devastating for the farmers, their family and communities involved, but it is sad for all Queenslanders who love their dairy.
On average, Australians consume 102 litres of fresh milk per person, per year.
In years gone by, around 95% of all milk produced in Queensland went into fresh milk product; that is, fresh bottled milk. The 5% remaining was used by small processors manufacturing boutique cheeses, yoghurts and ice-cream. Now, milk needs to come from interstate to meet our state’s consumption.
Consumers and the media are somewhat fickle in their attention to the climate conditions that farmers are still facing. The rain received in the coastal regions over the Easter period led most Queenslanders in major cities to believe that the drought that was so widely covered by the media in 2018, was over.
Only one month ago, the Queensland Government was forced to extend the drought declared mapping area to include all the Scenic Rim and Lockyer Valley, Burnett and Rockhampton regions. Now a staggering 65% of Queensland is drought declared and the Bureau of Meteorology do not have any hopes of unseasonable falls over the coming months.
Farmers continue to struggle with the price of feed and now water for irrigation is fast becoming a point of major contention across Australia.
The end of $1/L milk was certainly a win for dairy farmers in Queensland. It not only gave farmers a price increase but clearly showed the market that farmers would no longer accept retailers setting a minimum RRP for fresh milk.
One thing however still mars the success of the campaign. It is a widely held misconception that those farmers supplying a processors without a generic contract currently receive no income from the 10-cents a litre.
It is in fact only a portion (around 30%) of most farms’ milk that is allocated to private label (Coles/Woolworths/Aldi and IGA home brands) receives the 10-cent price increase. What this means is that farmers are on average receiving only around 3-cents more per litre across their full volume.
“We didn’t hear a single complaint from shoppers when the price of private label milk increased by 10 cents. As our research showed, shoppers are happy to pay more if it helps the farmers and helps ensure they get fresh milk in future. This doesn’t just apply to cheap milk, but to branded milk too” said QDO Vice President Matthew Trace.
“Unfortunately, help has come too late for many farmers and we’ve lost the ability to supply 100% Queensland made milk unless farmers can make a sustained profit.
While our farmers appreciate the price increase and appreciate the support that consumers have shown, the 10-cents increase needs to be applied to all the milk we produce. All processors need to utilise the opportunity that the end of $1/L milk provides them. They have to have the guts to increase the RRP for branded milk and pass that full increase back to their farmers. That way they will be able to secure their milk supplies by ensuring that dairy in Queensland is profitable” said Mr Trace.