New procurement commitment to Go Local a huge opportunity for the dairy industry.

On the 19 December, Minister Mick De Brenni announced the Queensland Government’s commitment to using local food and beverages at all Queensland Government facilities and sponsored or run events whenever possible. This means every effort must be made to have products in, for example, Queensland public hospitals, to be local.

As part of the Procurement Advisory Board, QDO had the opportunity to help develop the parameters around what constitutes local. According to the newly released guidelines, for dairy products, local means that a minimum of 85% of raw (fresh milk) product must be from Queensland and that 100% must be processed and manufactured in Queensland.

For the dairy industry, in particular, for the small and independent processors, this is a huge opportunity for growth. It may allow them to break into new markets and to consider alternate value-add product lines.

For some larger processors who are currently making many products like flavoured milk, cheese and yoghurts interstate, this policy may make them reconsider their current production arrangements.

Not only does it give our processors the opportunity to increase their volume sales, but also a chance to employ more people and potentially pick up additional farms currently supplying to one of the big three.

The procurement policy will cover everything from boardroom lunches, to banquets for visiting dignitaries, to sporting events and the arts. This is also a terrific way for our brands to gain exposure and be promoted to visitors to our state.

Sensibly, the Government is intending to take a softly-softly approach to the launch of this initiative, as there will be teething problems as caterers, restaurants and facilities operators come to grips with how to access local produce.

The government is cautious about making it difficult for the small-scale caterers to procure Queensland product when they more than likely purchase from supermarkets where, with the exception of milk, there is a glaring lack of locally produced dairy.

Contracts on sponsorships of stadiums and other major government-owned facilities will need to finish before the policy can be implemented in these places and these things will take time.

QDO has already begun the process of working with small processors so that they can take advantage of this opportunity. The independent dairy processor summit in late November was the first chance to discuss how they could potentially ramp up production and get their product into stores and locations across Queensland. Quality and quantity are key if we as an industry intend to differentiate our dairy products from other states.

Certainly, this announcement brings a level of optimism that hasn’t been seen in the Queensland dairy industry for a number of years, so we intend to take full advantage of it and ensure that our processors are in a position to meet demand with great Queensland products.

Queensland Dairyfarmers' Organisation Vice President: Matthew Trace.