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Northern Victorian dairy farmers have been let down, says UDV president

By Alana Christensen

‘‘I am disappointed to say that our farmers and their communities in the north have been let down by industry, processors and governments.’’

That was the sombre message delivered by UDV president Paul Mumford at the UDV Conference in Melbourne on Friday.

With production falling, confidence low and an element of fatigue setting in among farmers, Mr Mumford called on all parts of the industry and wider politics to do their best to help northern Victoria.

‘‘The last year has not been an easy for anyone in this room,’’ he told the crowd.

‘‘The past five months have been tough, tough for farmers on the ground but also tough for the UDV and VFF.

‘‘Tough to secure the attention and response that our industry needs to assist our farmers rise to the many, and growing, challenges.

‘‘The recognition and response from those in government and our supply chain has been, quite frankly, inadequate.’’

And it was not just the effect of dry conditions, milk price pressures and high feed prices that have been taking their toll.

‘‘Irrigation issues in the north of the state have shown a clear link between water and dairy,’’ Mr Mumford said.

‘‘Irrigators have shown extreme efficiencies within our Victorian boundaries yet appear to be continually asked to deliver for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan when other states do not show the same technology improvements or commitment to efficiencies our farmers do.’’

With consultations for the Australian Dairy Plan getting under way in the coming weeks, Mr Mumford called on those creating it to ensure it delivered ‘‘more than a website and nice brochure’’.

‘‘Will it be more than another plan, more than a framework or mud map?’’

He said all parts of the supply chain — including processors — must do their part to repair the industry.

‘‘A good industry is one built on trust, transparency and a ‘fair go’ for all.

‘‘Since 2016 our relationship has been fractured and the wounds have not healed.

‘‘Will you step up and make a genuine commitment to work hand-in-hand with us to take our industry forward?

‘‘Messaging to our consumer must change,’’ he said.

‘‘Media coverage of supermarkets raising the price of some milks from $1 to $1.10 per litre has suggested that all challenges of the industry will be near instantly solved by the additional 10¢. This is totally false and misleading.

‘‘We must not allow retailers to use dairy as a ‘market loss leader’ for their own benefits and profit margin.’’

The northern Victorian region has continued a slip in milk production, according to the latest Dairy Australia figures.

The March production figure was down by 27 per cent compared to the same time last year, and is part of a 17 per cent year-to-date slide.