Update from up North.

Our focus for the last few months has been on our drought declared regions, but we always need to pay attention to the situation for our members in the North.

The Atherton Tablelands are experiencing an extended extremely dry period. Good rain was received across the region until the first week of July, but since then there has been little rain to report. A lack of consistent rainfall fails our free draining soils which are usually so good for our industry.

Pasture has been extremely short and good quality hay has been very hard to source and much dearer than normal. Grain prices have risen by up to 20% due to higher input prices for the grain millers. Until new season crops come in, and assuming the weather allows large scale planting of those crops, the Far North’s situation is likely to last for at least 12 months.  Water for irrigation is lessening as stream flow decreases putting further pressure on those farmers wit access to irrigation.  Milk production volumes are dropping and costs are increasing which is putting increasing pressure on farmers and the business community from a financial and mental strength point of view.

While not drought declared the situation for the far north is far from secure.

Lion, the processor that owns the Malanda factory, has put its entire dairy and juice business up for sale. The successful purchaser is unlikely to be known for about 6 months. Lion have been proactive in advising farmers of the process that they are going through and the progress so far. DFMC, the supply co-operative that aggregates the milk from farmers for the Lion factories, has a Milk Supply Agreement with Lion that will guarantee right of supply until June 2022.  Milk from our farmers will be required regardless of the sale outcome.

The Federal Government is moving to implement a Mandatory Code of Conduct for the dairy industry. This Code must cover from farm to processor to retailer.  The retailers are saying they already must abide by the Grocery Code of Conduct—obviously, from their behaviour, the Grocery Code is not enough to ensure good behaviour. So while we represent only a small number of farmers, we are pleased that we will be able to have our voice at a consultation meeting scheduled to be held on Monday 26 November in Malanda. 

Queensland Dairyfarmers' Organisation

District Councillor for Far North Queensland James Geraghty