2018 – a year in review for the dairy industry.

It has been a year of highs and lows and a few frustrations for the dairy industry.

There was some optimism at the start of 2018, as the Australian dairy industry waited for the final ACCC report into the value chain. While not a complete surprise, it was disappointing that there was little difference between the Interim Report released in 2017 and the Final Report of April 2018. The only major difference between the two was the ACCC’s insistence on a Mandatory Code of Conduct between farmers and processors.

QDO and farmers are certainly disappointed that even after the first round of consultations held in November, the retailers been ‘let off’ their responsibilities to the dairy supply chain with the ACCC insisting that the voluntary Grocery Code of Conduct was enough.

Interestingly last week, the NSW Parliament released its own report into their state dairy industry. It was no surprise to QDO, nor to any dairy farmer experiencing current conditions that the findings state “The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission found that this practice does not directly impact the price paid to dairy farmers for their milk supply. This committee has found, based on the evidence before it, what is intuitive to even the casual observer and abundantly clear to farmers themselves: that retailers selling milk for $1 per litre has removed considerable value from the dairy value chain.”

With the rising costs of feed caused by drought and unsustainable farm gate prices, QDO felt that something more had to be done to provide immediate relief to our farmers.

In recent years we have come to appreciate that political advocacy can only change things so far. The decision was made for QDO to push for 10 cent/litre Drought Levy imposed for all fresh milk in supermarkets and it caused a significant stir.

The campaign received significant media and consumer support and it was with a degree of optimism that we pushed forward. Unfortunately, the might of Coles’ and Woolworths’ proved too great as they used their considerable influence to bury the campaign by promoting what was little more than PR stunts by placing the levy on single size and private label brands only. 

When some rainfall events occurred in the south east of the state, consumer and media support unfortunately waned, even though the rain did little to alleviate the conditions.

Ministerial calls for a Royal Commission into the predatory pricing of supermarkets have been a welcome renewal of interest in our industry. As one, we see that the Commission needs to investigate this issue for all perishable goods since bullying by the supermarket giants is well known by many agricultural industries.

As we enter the final weeks of the year, national and state dairy bodies have come together to work on a national campaign and we would hope that in the early months of 2019, we can work at a national level with ADF and the NFF to force the Federal Government to approve the Commission.

QDO would like to thank everyone who through kind words, sharing stories or buying Queensland brands, has supported our dairy industry through a tough 2018. Here’s looking forward to 2019 with optimism.

Queensland Dairyfarmers' Organisation President: Brian Tessmann