Retailers must do the right thing by dairy farmers

Oct 08, 2018

For nearly a decade, dairy farmers have been wearing the pain caused by discounted products, whether it’s $1 per litre milk or cheap cheese.

I remember when the first $1 per litre products went on supermarket shelves on Australia Day, 2011 and the outrage caused by the resultant “milk wars”.

Prior to this marketing campaign, the last time milk was $1 per litre was around 1992. But in 2018, it’s impossible to live on a wage set at 1992 levels.

Now there is momentum to turn things around and give value back to the dairy supply chain.

Some supermarket chains have announced plans to help drought-affected dairy farmers.

Woolworths plans to introduce a special range of milk priced at $1.10 per litre in mid-October. Homebrand 2L and 3L milk products are currently on shelves for $1.10 per litre until the drought-relief milk product launches.

Coles is now selling its 3L Own Brand milk products for $3.30, with the money collected to be distributed back to farmers via a fund with an application process.

Both have been upfront about the fact that their initiatives are only short-term measures that aren’t intended to solve the problem of discounted dairy products.

As President of Australian Dairy Farmers, I represent farmers all across the country. Many are calling me asking how they are eligible to receive a fair price from either of these plans.

The problem with both plans is that many regions of Australia affected by drought with high production costs impacting thousands of dairy farmers, yet most of those farmers won’t be able to claim a benefit from either initiative.

Coles has encouraged any dairy farmers to apply for a grant through their fund, but those in drought-declared areas will be given priority, while

Woolworths intends to distribute the extra 10c from their drought-relief milk back to farmers via their processor.

While I support measures that see farmers paid a reasonable price for their hard work and dedication, I must ask, “Is this really the best we can do?”

Certainly ADF and our state dairy farmer organisations believe all dairy farmers must see a benefit from any increase in retail milk prices.

Farmers put tireless effort and resources into producing a quality product. And it leaves a deep and lasting impact to see your hard work sitting on a supermarket shelf for less than the price of water.

This pricing practice is not viable and we urgently need a shared solution to assist in building the long-term sustainability of Australian dairy farmers.

Ultimately, we must push for a permanent end to discounted dairy products, whether it’s $1 per litre milk or cheap cheese.

There is a groundswell of support for farmers hit hard by the drought and supermarkets have the best opportunity to scrap their discounted dairy products right across the breadth and depth of the dairy cabinet.

The supermarkets know what farmers want. They know what they deserve. It’s now time for them to take a big step forward and do the right thing by ending this pricing practice.

But until that time comes, I encourage the public to help dairy farmers by continuing to buy branded dairy products.

- Terry Richardson, ADF President

The Difference is in the Detail

Sep 23, 2016


Over the last few days, New Zealand based Fonterra lifted its forecast milk payout for the second time. On Wednesday the estimated Farmgate price was boosted by a further 50 NZ cents to $NZ5.25, while the company maintained its dividend payout to farmers resulting in a total amount of $NZ5.75 to $NZ5.85 per kilogram.

Australian companies are between 10 – 20 per cent below New Zealand’s latest forecast. 

While Fonterra's announcement follows the increased global dairy prices at the Global Dairy Trade auctions, Australian farmers are still waiting for theirs. Although there are any number of reasons why we are behind New Zealand, it still makes for an interesting conundrum when Australia has a bigger domestic market and yet our prices remain unadventurously low.

This really highlights how volatile the world milk price is and why we need regular, clear and realistic market signals in Australia.

By establishing a commodity milk price index tool there will be greater transparency to allow farmers to make their own assessments on milk price forecasts. Farmers will be able to better balance risk along the dairy supply chain, especially when it comes to managing the effects of world milk prices.

New Zealand already has a milk price index and it works quite well, as they have over 90 per cent exports, and can set themselves against the world market.

In Australia we have a 65 per cent domestic market and a different export commodity mix which should deliver a higher price for Australian farmers than the New Zealand price in a low commodity market as we are in now. Therefore, Australia needs to have an independent commodity index rather than use New Zealand’s due to our different export commodity mix.

ADF has had extensive discussions with government on the proposed index and we are looking forward to help shaping this important tool. It’s vital we get this right so all farmers have the ability to use the global information to assist them when they negotiate supply contracts with processors.

The index needs to be independent and transparent with easily accessible data that isn’t hard or complicated to use. It needs to be updated daily to capture the latest market intelligence from around the world and should translate commodity market and currency trends back to Farmgate prices across Australia. The index should also deliver a forward-looking price indicator to capture restored certainty and decision-making resulting in improved farmer confidence, better on-farm investment decisions, and ultimately higher farm profitability.

We have no doubt that our processors will increase their milk price forecast which is why we support the index and want to ensure it is a true indicator of commodity prices and meets the requirements of the Australian dairy industry as a whole.

The index will also give farmers the tool to better understand the impacts of world market trends and to be better armed with questions of the company they supply.

David Basham

Acting ADF President

 

Global Milk Prices Are On The Rise

Sep 09, 2016

Recent data on global dairy prices shows a positive rise that looks as if it might continue.

The average price in the Global Dairy Trade auction overnight rose by 7.7 per cent. This followed two consecutive rises in the past month, with a 12.7 percent increase in prices at the most recent auction, while the important whole milk powder (WMP) price rose by 3.7 per cent.

These results have driven the index to an 18 month high.

Analysts are predicting further rises in the global milk price which suggests that the worst might be behind us and we may start to see some stability return to the global milk supply. This will hopefully occur through rebalancing of supply and demand due to cut backs in EU production, intervention buying of SMP (skim milk powder) in Europe and increased buying in China.

Although these increases are nowhere near enough to return to sustainable prices it is pleasing to see that prices are on the rise and things may be looking better in the long term.

Unfortunately, the most optimistic scenarios see the market turning in any meaningful way in the first quarter of 2017.

As dairy farmers we have a limited capacity to manage the market price so it is important to always focus on what we can manage, remain aware of industry risks and maintain a low cost production system so we are in a better position to weather any storms.

While we are an industry that has been under intense pressure, we are also an industry that has the know-how and resilience to overcome adversity and thrive in the long term.

ADF, together with our state members, is continuing to fight for farmers. Even though we won’t be able to solve all of the issues farmers are facing, we are working to relieve some of the pressures to create change to ensure that an unfair share of the risk in the value chain is not taken by the farmer and that recent events in the industry don’t happen again.

Collaboration is the key to get us where we need to be. Our industry relies on all the elements to operate effectively. Farmers need processors and vice versa – so the solutions require all of us to come together to ensure a positive future.

While we wait for the uptick in prices we must remember that we are a resilient industry with a long, sustainable future ahead and our profitability depends greatly on the continued support of the Australian public.

It is important to remind the community that dairy farmers – regardless of the challenges they face are good business people, who care for their cows, work to enhance the well-being of their people and that every efficiency we make on farm has ties to minimising our impact of the environment.

To view the global dairy price index [click here]

David Basham

Acting ADF President


 

 

Important Outcomes From The Symposium

Aug 26, 2016

The symposium was held yesterday in Melbourne and both the Australian Dairy Farmers CEO John McQueen and myself attended.

Firstly, I would like to thank the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce for organising and chairing the symposium as well as other government officials who were in attendance.

I would also like to thank our state members - QDO, NSWFarmers, SADA, TFGA, UDV, WAFarmers and industry partners for their work prior to the symposium which gave us the opportunity to narrow our message down to focus on four important key areas.

Lastly I would like to thank the processors and retailers who were at the symposium to hear from concerned farmers, owners of small businesses and people who produce a quality product that many people in Australia rely on.

For me, the symposium provided an opportunity for the dairy industry to have an open discussion with key stakeholders to address the challenges facing the Australian dairy industry.

Our main points include no $1 milk, no late season drop in milk price, fairer contracts, commodity milk price index with an educational program and critical need for farmers and manufacturers to find the solutions rather than depend on government.

These points illustrate the need by industry to ease the pressure placed on farmers by having to accept an unfair share of the risk and possible financial fall-out. We believe in greater transparency and look forward to working with the government on establishing the commodity price index tool which will help tip the balance back to the farmer.

Since 2011, we have said that the $1 milk devalues the product by taking substantial value out of the supply chain and has to stop if we are going to maintain a sustainable industry. There needs to be greater fairness in contracts and we have committed to working with processors to ensure all contracts comply with the unfair Contracts Legislation that begins on November 12, 2016. Also, the situation in Western Australia needs to be addressed immediately as we don’t believe it’s right that nine farmers may not have anywhere to take their milk.

In response, Minister Joyce urges the need for industry to work together to better balance risk along the dairy supply chain, especially when it comes to managing the effects of lower world prices. He wants to see improved Farmgate returns for dairy farmers, an openness in milk price arrangements and fair and transparent milk supply contracts; plus, the development of a commodity milk price index which he committed up to $2 million in government funding to establish. Also, for industry to find a compromise to the $1 milk situation otherwise he will need to take action and push for an immediate solution.

However, he also acknowledged that these things will only happen if there is buy-in from industry and a willingness from key stakeholders to hear each other out and develop solutions together.

A surprise announcement made by Minister Joyce at the conclusion of the symposium advised that Treasurer Scott Morrison has request the ACCC to undertake an inquiry under Part VIIA of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 providing the Commission with powers to obtain information from the entire value chain. What this means is the ACCC has been given extra investigatory powers to undertake the inquiry, with the authority to dig deeper than it would have been able to in a market study. The inquiry, which will begin in November, will investigate sharing risk along the supply chain, supply agreements and contracts, competition, bargaining and trading practices in the industry and the effect of world retail prices on profitability.

Yesterday’s dairy symposium delivered on Minister Joyce’s election promise to get key stakeholders together to address challenges facing the Australian dairy industry and discuss ways to improve the industry’s prospects going forward.

One of the ways the Coalition Government is delivering assistance to dairy farmers is with a $579 million support package to help manage through the current low price environment. The funding been allocated to four main areas including access to Dairy Recovery Concessional Loans, Farm Household Allowance (FHA), the Rural Financial Counselling Service and an additional $900,000 for Dairy Australia to roll out ‘Tactics for Tight Times’ one-to-one farm business advice.

If you have any questions relating to whether you are eligible for the concessional loans, the government has released a dairy question and answer section on their website (click here). However, we suggest that you also contact a financial counsellor or the relevant state delivery agency as they will be able to help you with information and the application process.

 

David Basham

Acting ADF President


 

 

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