Massive boost for dairy farmers

 

QUEENSLAND'S struggling dairy farmers have wrestled back some bargaining power after processors were forced to publish their prices for the next 12 months online.

Maleny Dairies owner Ross Hopper said Monday's move was a massive boost for the industry after a disastrous 2019, when an average of one Queensland dairy farmer a week quit.

Coinciding with world milk day, the changes were a key plank of the Morrison Government's mandatory code of conduct which kicked into gear on January 1 to smash bargaining power imbalances along the supply chain.

 

Owners of Maleny Dairy Ross and Sally Hopper with kids Rascal, 13, Cheeky, 10, Rescue, 12, and Ruckus, 9. Picture: Lachie Millard
Owners of Maleny Dairy Ross and Sally Hopper with kids Rascal, 13, Cheeky, 10, Rescue, 12, and Ruckus, 9. Picture: Lachie Millard

 

Mr Hopper welcomed the spotlight being thrown on a complex pricing system that has left many farmers struggling to meet their production costs.

"There are processors out there who aren't looking after the farmers hence why the dairy industry is in such dire straits at the moment," he said.

Queensland Dairy Organisation president Brian Tessman said it was a "positive" move but would benefit farmers in southern states first because their contracts rolled over in July whereas most Queensland contracts were tied to the calendar year.

"It is positive, it's just at this stage there's no dramatic change to things in Queensland but the guys are watching it to see what different processors do with their contracts," he said.

Coinciding with the code of conduct coming wholly into effect, Woolworths announced it would extend its 10c per litre dairy levy for another 12 months.

 

Maleny Dairies. Picture: Lachie Millard
Maleny Dairies. Picture: Lachie Millard

 

Woolworths spokesman Paul Harker said this would deliver about $8.5 million to 160 Queensland dairy farmers alone.

But the move was slammed by the Coalition with Agriculture Minister David Littleproud savaging the major supermarkets as "abhorrent corporations" and Nationals Senator Susan McDonald labelling the levy as "tokenism".

"The major supermarkets are not looking behind the veil to see if processors are genuinely paying the farmers' cost of production or better," she said.

"If supermarkets won't put the levy across more than just homebrand milk, as representatives of these dairy farmers, (some colleagues and I) will push for the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct to be made compulsory, instead of voluntary."

The code has been in place since 2015 and Coles and Woolworths are currently signatories. A review in 2018 recommended it remain a voluntary code.



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