Dairy all in the same boat

By Brian Tessmann, QDO President

It has been disappointing to hear some media misrepresenting the current state of the dairy industry in Australia. There has been a misunderstanding of the factors that have led to the recent decline in Queensland’s dairy industry.

Particularly disturbing was one reporter’s assertion that although the northern industry may be failing, there was nothing to worry about because the southern industry was growing and would supplement these losses. A proclamation such as this is comprehensively inaccurate. Unfortunately, the Dairy Australia spokesperson failed to properly articulate the real situation to the reporter and their audience.

To properly understand the current state of Queensland’s dairy industry, some historical context is required. There have been three great downturns in the Queensland industry since WWII. There was a severe decline in the 1970’s following Britain joining the European Community (EEC). Next came industry deregulation in 2000 followed by the current decline after the introduction of $1 milk per litre in 2011.

Notably, there was once a corresponding increase in production in southern Australia following Britain entering the EU. However in the years since the introduction of $1 milk, there has been significant reductions in dairy production Australia-wide, both in Victoria and Queensland.

The facts are that despite the losses of farmers last century, the 1999/2000 year was the biggest milk production year Queensland has ever with a total of 848 ML of milk produced. However, since then over half of that milk production has been lost. In 1999/2000 Australia’s milk production was close to 12 billion litres, but has since struggled to stay above 9 billion litres. The recent Murray Goulburn led crisis looks to be lowering the national production toward 8 billion litres.

With most alternative sources of milk over 1000 km away from our market and overseas markets growing rapidly, the southern dairy industry is looking like an uncertain place to rely on for this state’s future fresh milk needs. Our state’s local fresh milk should always be the first choice for Queensland processors, retailers and consumers.