Pull together, says new dairy boss

Zach RelphCountryman
Dairy Australia released its Australian Dairy Plan last Friday.
Camera IconDairy Australia released its Australian Dairy Plan last Friday.

The man entrusted with leading the dairy industry through turbulent times says current difficulties in delivering profits and strained relationships with processors are the biggest challenges milk farmers have ever faced.

John Brumby, who was this month unveiled as the Australian Dairy Plan independent chairman, wants dairy farmers to “be honest about the issues” confronting the sector.

“Market volatility, challenging conditions on farm and a breakdown in trust between farmers and processors have taken a toll on where the industry stood a decade ago,” the former Victorian premier said.

“It is vital that all sides now pull together to agree to a roadmap of priorities and actions, in order to reset the direction and confidence of the industry.

“In my view, the challenges we face today are bigger and more complex than the industry has faced before.

“If we are to write the next chapter of dairy’s story, we not only need to be honest about the issues we face but also open to taking difficult decisions and supporting radical change if required.”

Dairy Australia released its Australian Dairy Plan last Friday, detailing market challenges and opportunities for the sector.

Australian Dairy Plan independent chairman John Brumby.
Camera IconAustralian Dairy Plan independent chairman John Brumby. Credit: Dairy Australia

The report found the global market had evolved faster than the Australian sector, making on-farm profit more difficult and there was a widespread shortage of skilled labour.

Mr Brumby said the report would provide the foundation for nationwide industry consultation, which started in Victoria week, to determine a new industry direction.

“The report provides a snapshot of the current state of Australia’s dairy industry,” he said.

“While flagging many positive factors for the industry that point towards a positive future, the report also provides an honest assessment of challenges that we hope will be addressed during the course of the consultations.”

The report noted Australia’s “relevance on global markets is being questioned” due to the dairy industry’s “shrinking scale and competitiveness”.

It also stated that “our global competitors have caught up and are now moving ahead of us in international markets”.

A dairy sector’s gaping skilled labour shortage was listed as a primary issue, with milk farmers struggling to attract and obtain staff.

The report said “keeping skills and knowledge in the industry” and promoting farm succession plans were both critically important.

“We can do more to portray a positive image of dairy as an industry to be involved in,” the report said.

Managing dairy market risks through “peaks and troughs” was also listed as a challenge.

Dairy Australia plans to hold a regional workshop near Bunbury at the Sanctuary Golf Resort on May 30, from 10.30am.

The meeting will be the only consultation in WA, with the nationwide workshops to conclude in New South Wales at Wagga on June 27.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud last Wednesday promised to create a dedicated Australian Competition and Consumer Commission “dairy specialist” role to provide a dedicated dairy voice.

The pair also pledged $10 million from the Energy Efficient Communities Grants Program as part of the Federal election commitment to help dairy farmers reduce energy costs through more efficient equipment.

Dairy Australia will receive $500,000 under the plan to bolster financial and legal advice services to more dairy farmers to strengthen contract negotiations with processors.

The promise comes after Woolworths, Coles and Aldi ended the controversial $1-a-litre scheme earlier this year in an attempt to improve embattled dairy farmers’ profits, much to the delight of Australian farmers.

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