Dairy industry begs supermarkets to stop milking farmers
DRINKING fresh milk will be a thing of the past if something is not done to help dairy farmers get a fair deal.
Dairy farmer John Cochrane supplies milk to Kenilworth Country Foods and Parmalat and said since deregulation in 2000, the Queensland dairy industry had shrunk from 1545 farmers to about 400.
"We've lost 1100 farmers since deregulation and they're still leaving," he said.
"We've had five suppliers leave in the last two months."
Member for Fairfax Clive Palmer took aim at the major retailers after speaking to Kenilworth locals on a tour of his electorate on Thursday.
He said the supermarket price wars had a devastating effect on the farming community.
"Local Kenilworth dairy farms have had to close as they can no longer continue to be profitable," Mr Palmer said.
"The price of milk has been forced lower by major retailers and local milk producers can no longer earn a living.
"It is destroying local communities like Kenilworth, where people rely on the dairy industry for work."
Mr Palmer said he would call upon Ministers in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's new cabinet to address the issue and stop retailers paying less than the cost of production.
"The major retailers should not be able to use their size and dominant position to destroy the livelihoods of Australians," he said.
Mr Cochrane said he too hoped the new cabinet would take a fresh look at the issue.
Mr Cochrane said the implementation of an effects test to give the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission more clout would be a good start.
Mr Turnbull agreed to consider the competition law changes as part of his agreement with the Nationals. Mr Cochrane said the changes could not come soon enough .
"People have got to understand that farmers - it's not only their farms (they are losing) it's their business, their lifestyle, their homes and their heritage; it's everything," he said.
Mr Cochrane said delegates at the Queensland Dairyfarmers Organisation conference last weekend were told $1-a-litre milk was here to stay.
"If people are happy to buy $1-a-litre milk they'll be drinking UHT in 10 years' time," he said.
"Because the farmers cannot be expected to produce quality at that cost."
A Woolworths spokesman said the company was "committed to supporting the Australian dairy industry by working with suppliers to deliver the best possible price and product range to our customers".
He said the new Farmers' Own milk range in Queensland was bought directly from farmers rather than through processors.
"Woolworths is proud of Farmers' Own milk because these supply contracts are made directly with milk farmers giving them end-to-end transparency from shed to shelf," he said.
"It has allowed us to put in place longer-term contracts for milk farmers ensuring they can negotiate a strong return for their product and given them the certainty to invest for the future."
Coles was unable to be reached for comment.