Rising toll in milk price war
UP to 10 dairy farmers on the Tableland have left the industry since the start of a price war in major supermarkets last year, new figures reveal.
The Queensland Dairy Farmers Organisation reported more than 40 dairy farmers had left the industry across the state since the “milk war” started on January 26, 2012, with eight to 10 of those coming from the Far North.
Millaa Millaa farmer and QDO state councillor James Geraghty said the impact of Coles’ decision to charge $1 per litre for milk was detrimental for the industry.
“This is not a single processor or single region issue, this is right across (the state),” Mr Geraghty said.
“The first thing we’d like to see is an ombudsman to make sure that the contracts between farmers, processors and retailers are fair and good.”
Mr Geraghty added that dairy farmers could remain in business if Coles increased the price of its milk from $1 to $1.10 a litre.
“Once Coles does it, Woolworths will do it, and once Woolworths do it, everyone else will do it,” he said.
“It’s something that consumers are not going to whinge about and will make our industry at least viable.”
The call for action comes as several farmers launched a protest at Brisbane’s Ekka yesterday, highlighting their struggle for survival.
“It keeps the issue front of mind for the consumer,” Mr Geraghty said.
“The public needs to be aware of the impact of what’s happening.”
According to QDO figures, there were 62 dairy farmers left on the Tableland as of July, down from a high of 185 when the dairy industry was de-regulated in July 2000.
QDO chief executive Adrian Peake said the drop in dairy production would leave the Far North with a milk shortage, after 54 million litres were lost last year to natural disasters.
“It’s a classic example of market failure, and that’s what we’ve been telling the federal government,” Mr Peake said.
“What we’re saying to consumers is that if you want fresh milk in the future, buy branded products today, support your local Dairy Farmers or Mungali brands.”
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"Milk war": Millaa Millaa farmer James Geraghty says the impact of Coles' $1 per litre milk charge was detrimental for the industry. Picture: ELENOR TEDENBORG.