'Horrific' conditions push farmers to the brink
THE head of Australia's largest farmer-owned dairy cooperative is calling the current drought the worst he has seen and predicts unless the rains come soon the industry will be decimated.
Norco chairman and acting chief executive Greg McNamara said he was concerned that if conditions did not improve, and consumers and retailers did not support their local producers, "we may not have an industry in five years' time".
"This is the most horrific drought the worst we have ever seen," he said.
"Creeks are running dry, people's bores are running low... how long can farmers hold on?
"In the last big dry of 2002-03 we lost a few farmers."
Mr McNamara said before the 2002-03 drought the Australian dairy industry was looking at producing 11 to 12 billion litres annually.
"But after that it went back to nine billion and is now predicted to hit its lowest at around eight billion in the 2018-2019 financial year," he said.
"Historically, when farmers go through tough periods such as floods or drought, we lose some and we have to keep as many in dairying as possible."
During September to November last year, Norco had a temporary price increase of five cents (a litre) to help out their producers.
Mr McNamara, who also runs a 300-head dairy herd at Goolmangar, said Norco was having conversations with customers to see what can be done to make sure the industry keeps as many dairy farmers as possible.
"It's a tough time for anyone on the land, not just dairy," he said.
"The dry and the heat has been relentless, people have used all their fodder in storage, there's no water and a load of grain or hay is close to $550."
According to Dairy Australia, the industry generates $13.7 billion across the whole supply chain and employs about 38,000 people directly on dairy farms and in manufacturing.