Jun 16, 2017
Over the past week, we have seen several milk supply companies announce their opening milk prices for 2017-18. While there will always be some variances in the opening prices for different companies this price generally reinforces the relative strength of market price improvement.
Further reinforced by Dairy Australia in their recent Situation and Outlook report, the improved outlook for 2017-18 offers sustainably better
returns with indicative prices for the year approaching $6 /kg ms.
Bega and Warrnambool both stated their opening price of $5.50/kg ms. Over the years both companies have been very consistent with their prices reflecting the world market, and their farmer suppliers have been paid accordingly. We can be confident that the opening prices of both Bega and Warrnambool reflect the steady upward improvements we have seen in world market prices over the past 6 months.
This week we also saw the release of Fonterra’s opening price for the coming year at $5.30 /kg ms, which is Fonterra’s true interpretation of the market price and reinforces the variances in opening prices between companies.
A short while ago Fonterra announced it was going to pay an additional 40 cents/kg ms to all its suppliers for the 2017-18 year to account for the step-down and claw back it applied to its suppliers last year.
While most Fonterra suppliers welcomed this news, there has always been concern that the 40 cents compensation payment would be marketed as part of their price for the 2017-18 year.
In a recent meeting with Fonterra, ADF was assured the 40 cents would be defined as a payment on top of their market price for 2017-18 and not actually part of the price. ADF was concerned that this compensation payment if marketed as part of their opening price to farmers, could be used to give Fonterra a perceived unfair advantage over all other companies.
We believe that companies who did the right thing by their suppliers for the 2015-16 year should not be accused of lagging behind Fonterra’s price for 2017-18. The announcement of the additional 40 cents as compensation was for the major step downs and clawbacks Fonterra applied to their suppliers during May 2016.
So, it was with considerable disappointment that we saw Fonterra’s announcement of their opening price and the supporting media release from Bonlac Supply Company. In their communications, they portrayed their opening price to incorporate the 40 cents to make the price $5.70 /kg ms, which makes them look like they are 20 cents/kg ms ahead of the competition.
Not only is this unfair to other companies which are above the Fonterra announced $5.30 opening market price, but it is also misleading to all their suppliers. It is a fact that the 40 cents/kg ms to be paid to all Fonterra suppliers this year is a compensation payment for 2015-16 – and should not, at any time, be characterised as part of the market price for 2017-18.
This past year, ADF and our state member organisations have worked in collaboration with companies to develop a Code of Practice on Contractual Arrangements. Most of the dairy companies participated in the development of the Code and agreed that one of the most important elements of the Code was the need for greater transparency in pricing for farmers.
By monitoring the application of the Code with farmers, we will be able to assess whether companies are conforming to the transparency principals outlined within the Code of Practice.
There is a real danger that Fonterra’s current characterisation of the 40 cents/kg ms being added to their market price for the year will give the wrong signal to all farmers and other companies that transparency only goes a small way.
It is important that all dairy companies remain fair and transparent in their pricing. The inconsistencies have indicated Fonterra and BSC are not being completely transparent with their suppliers. These types of contradictions are nothing but misleading at a time when the dairy industry has committed to rebuilding trust along the supply chain.
Interim ADF Chief Executive Officer
Oct 07, 2016
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. It is a win win situation.
It is one thing to constantly pick apart the industry to highlight the problems, it is another to actually work together to bring about real solutions
to ensure this never happens again.
Last week the Australian Dairy Farmers held an important meeting with state dairy organisation presidents and processors to address a range of contractual issues which farmer organisations have been trying to address and rectify for 15 years.
During the meeting we discussed a range of topics including the difficult circumstances of farm gate price reductions, the introduction of new legislation on unfair contracts which comes into effect in November and the outcomes from the August Symposium held by Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce.
This meeting provided an ideal opportunity for the dairy industry to unite and develop a voluntary industry wide code of practice on contractual arrangements with farmers.
The code will include:
- greater transparency in contracts and supply agreements
- ensuring a pricing formula or a price setting mechanism is clearly defined within a contract
- ensuring pricing adjustments to farmers throughout a contract are clearly defined and that there will be no retrospectivity
- while acknowledging step ups do occur and step downs have occurred in severe circumstances, a principle should be incorporated into contracts which clearly outlines that as much notice as possible is necessary if a step-down has to occur
- ensuring farmers should receive all payments that accrue over the term of a contract or supply agreement – the final payments of a contract should not be contingent on the farmer being a supplier when, for example, the June payment is made in mid-July
- ensure that where a processor has a contracted volume limit or a different price for volume above a particular level then exclusivity of supply to that processor must not occur
- ensuring there is a clearly defined mechanism for giving notice of termination of a contract
- ensuring there is a clearly defined mechanism of how contract terms and conditions can be modified and the farmer having the right to a negotiated variation, not simply a request from the processor.
Incorporating these principles into a code of conduct will give farmers, or their representative, the opportunity to have a contract or supply agreement which is truly negotiated and not simply an agreement which is a “take it or leave” it approach to farmer’s milk supply arrangements.
The ADF together with the state member organisations have worked hard since the crisis unfolded to ensure future milk supply agreements are balanced, fair and transparent. It has been a long process to get to this stage and a major breakthrough for the entire industry.
State dairy farmer organisations have been working to achieve these improvements for many years. By having a national organisation which is well resourced the States can achieve things together that would be impossible to achieve on their own.
We plan on finalising the draft code as soon as possible, ahead of the new legislation and before the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission inquiry into the dairy industry is finalised next year.
Now more than ever, the dairy industry needs to remain focused and united in its goals to achieve a shared vision of improving the profitability and sustainability of dairy farmers and the entire dairy industry in Australia.
Acting ADF President
Jul 09, 2016
With the official announcement of last weekend’s election yet to be made, the dairy sector (like the rest of the nation) is watching very closely and working to ensure that all political parties understand our priorities. Whatever the outcome, it is essential that stability reigns – effective policy formation and clear action to overcome challenges will be otherwise impossible.
Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) has made clear its priorities for the next government – extend and streamline access to the concessional loans and Farm
Household Assistance for all affected farmers, create a safer, more resilient workforce, ensure secure sustainable access to water resources and above
all, address the imbalance of market power within the dairy supply chain.
It’s good to see that all parties have recognised the importance of supporting our farmers through the current challenge, as well as committing to developing innovative solutions to building long term sustainability of our industry.
However, it is concerning to see some are still calling for a fresh milk levy – an unworkable solution. If a fresh milk levy was imposed, it would potentially result in farmers who supply domestic markets subsidising their export market oriented counterparts. This is not a workable solution.
There are also potential difficulties associated with such a levy breaching Australian Competition and Consumer Commission regulations as well as potential issues with the World Trade Organisation.
The fundamental issue our farmers continue to face is that they wear the bulk of financial risk in the dairy supply chain. We need a practical and viable solution to increase transparency in the way the milk pricing system works and to simplify milk contracts to ensure the volatility of the market is better balanced along the supply chain.
This week UDV and ADF met with farmers in South West Victoria – to hear concerns, answer questions and build feedback about the current supply chain into our policy work. This is one of many meetings ADF will continue to participate in throughout the year, to ensure we are effectively representing farmers’ interests.
The discussion was robust. Overall, the consensus in the room was that trust has been broken and we need to find a way forward.
The challenges faced by farmers in Western Australia due to processor decisions reinforce the sector as a whole is enduring tough times – no state is immune.
Collaboration is what will get us to where we need to be. Our industry relies on all the elements to operate effectively. Farmers need processors and vice versa – so the solutions will require input from all parties.
Beyond this the public and the government ignore us if we do not operate as one. If we have a hung parliament, dairy will need parliamentary champions to advocate our policy priorities and the industry must work together to feed them that case.
Acting ADF President
Jun 23, 2016
The first priority over the last few weeks has been to secure targeted assistance and roll
out support to help farmers with their most pressing needs.
At the same time, we remain focused on the big picture – especially when it comes to water. It won’t be enough to help farmers get over this hurdle if their businesses later fall over because water is too scarce and expensive to stay milking in seasons to come.
We can’t control the weather. The recent rains are a welcome reprieve, but to make a substantial difference to the bleak outlook on water allocations for next season it will need to keep raining heavily in the catchments over the next few months..
So while we watch the skies, our priority remains achieving long-term objectives on what can be controlled. Environmental water trading, the Murray Darling Basin Plan and the Connections reset all have an important bearing on whether enough water will be available when farmers need it and at a price they can afford in 2016/17 and beyond.
We are advocating for State and Federal Government commitments to assist our industry by making more water available next season. Potential untapped sources include trade in northern Victorian allocations to urban centres such as Melbourne, as well as a share of the environmental water held in Victorian and Commonwealth accounts.
The amendments to the Federal Water Act last month mean that the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) now has more flexibility to trade water it may not need. As of 31 March, the CEWH still had just over 300 GL in storage; while it has no plans to trade in 2016-17 at this stage, this may change as part of environmental planning now underway.
We also remain focused on the Connections reset. The announcement that only $388 million is left to deliver more than 100 GL savings was unwelcome news at a time when farmers already have so much on their plates. Now more than ever, we must get this reset right to provide sustainable infrastructure for a resilient dairy industry.
Once the election is over, we will be back in Canberra to keep the pressure on the elected party to achieve the Murray Darling Basin Plan’s environmental outcomes without removing any more water from irrigated agriculture.
State and Commonwealth Governments have an in-principle agreement to deliver the full 650GL in environmental offsets, and undertake more robust socio-economic assessment before any attempt to achieve more than the 2750 GL target. We are holding them to all of these commitments.