Dairy

Industry advocate plan

By Alana Christensen

A fresh milk and dairy advocate is set to be appointed in NSW if the Coalition wins the state election, underpinned by a dedicated dairy unit to ensure farmers have a government point of contact.

Announced by NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair, the Dairy Business Advisory Unit will help farmers survive the drought and financial stresses, according to Mr Blair.

A recent inquiry into the NSW dairy industry found producers were caught in a cost-price squeeze, leaving farmers to operate on the slimmest of margins.

Dairy Connect Farmers’ Group president Graham Forbes expressed support for the announcements but indicated that the devil would be in the detail.

Mr Blair said the government would also work with industry to drive demand for NSW milk through a marketing campaign, as well as offer fully subsidised course fees for the NSW Dairy Farm Training Program.

NSW Farmers’ dairy committee chair Erika Chesworth said dairy farmers must receive a fair price for their milk, calling for an end to $1/litre milk.

‘‘NSW dairy farmers have not received a fair price for many years, with market conditions and industry structures working against us. The ongoing drought has starkly demonstrated the lack of resilience within our dairy enterprises,’’ Ms Chesworth said.

‘‘Milk production has plummeted 11 per cent over the last 12 months. The industry needs immediate change as the status quo is simply not sustainable, especially for farmers.

‘‘Farmers have no control over the value generated through the industry and we have had to watch our fresh product devalued through irrational pricing from the retailers. Farmers are operating below the cost of production — and without significant action, farmers cannot keep going.’’

Dairy Connect chief executive officer Shaughn Morgan said all sides of politics had acknowledged the value of advocacy on behalf of dairy producers and the dairy industry generally.

Drought, plus high electricity, grain and water prices have combined with low milk prices to force many farmers out of the industry and national milk production levels are shrinking.

Australia’s milk production during the past financial year had dropped by the greatest volume since the millennium drought and the national herd size has fallen too.

Dairy Australia estimates more than 75000 dairy cows were culled in 2018, up five per cent on the previous year.

National milk production is now forecast to fall by nine per cent this financial year.

‘‘Urgent action needs to be taken to address the many issues confronting the NSW dairy industry so as to ensure its sustainability for future generations of dairy farmers, and we look forward to working with the next NSW Government to assist in finding answers,’’ Ms Morgan said.