By QDO North Queensland State Councillor James Geraghty
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently held a forum in Malanda to hear from local dairy farmers as part of its national inquiry into the dairy industry. The Tableland dairy farmers who attended the meeting joined a total of over 600 farmers who had already attended one of seven forums held throughout the country.
The national inquiry focuses on the fairness of contracts between farmers and processors as well as other sections of the industry. This includes an analysis into distribution of profits; investigating milk swaps between processors; transparency of pricing calculations; and whether or not collective bargaining is working within the dairy industry.
The difficulties with shifting from one processor to another was of particular concern to dairy farmers who expressed dismay that one major processor in Queensland renews contracts in July while the other major processor renews in January. Furthermore, government bodies are under pressure to make amendments to current legislation that outlines processors have no obligation to listen to or negotiate with collective bargaining groups.
The main conversation around the distribution of profits in the dairy industry concentrated around issues associated with $1 per litre milk, $6 per kilogram cheese and the negative flow on effects these products can have on the supply chain in different dairying regions.
Once again the question was asked of whether farmers were living on the depreciation of their assets. The amount of depreciation accumulated on an asset is meant to be put aside and used to purchase a replacement asset when needed. However, in most cases, this is not happening. The assets are wearing out and farmers are being forced to borrow money to buy new ones. This is opposite to how a viable ‘business’ should be operating.
On behalf of dairy farmers on the Tablelands, I want to thank Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) and the ACCC staff for facilitating the Malanda meeting and allowing local farmers to have their say on this very important inquiry.