WAFarmers eye dairy deal

Rueben HaleCountryman
Busselton dairy farmer Keiran Chapman is one of the five dairy farmers who lost their milk supply contract with Harvey Fresh last week. Having invested about $1.5 million in building a new dairy recently, he now has nowhere to deliver his milk.
Camera IconBusselton dairy farmer Keiran Chapman is one of the five dairy farmers who lost their milk supply contract with Harvey Fresh last week. Having invested about $1.5 million in building a new dairy recently, he now has nowhere to deliver his milk. Credit: Becky Felstead.

The WA dairy industry remains hopeful of negotiating contracts for the four farmers who were cut from supplying Brownes last month.

WAFarmers dairy president Phil Depiazzi said he had been working with the milk processor and the State Government to try to find a solution for the company to use millions of litres of milk unneeded in WA at present.

Last week, WA’s mounting toll of out-of-contract dairy farmers reached crisis point with the news that five dairy farmers previously contracted to Harvey Fresh would be joining the four Brownes suppliers dumped last month.

The nine dumped dairy farmers are estimated to supply about 25 million litres of milk a year.

Fear is also mounting in dairy country as pressure on the local farm-gate price builds, as the national milk glut continues to worsen.

The “new normal” farm-gate milk price now ranges from Brownes’ average rate of 45c/L, through Harvey Fresh, to Lion’s average price paid in WA for grade one milk of 53.6c/L, as the State grapples with ways to cope with 53.5 million litres of excess milk, which most floods the market during spring.

“I believe we are getting closer to the line,” Mr Depiazzi said.

“The main issue for the WA diary industry is the farm-gate milk price disparity between the three main processors because the long-game for the industry collectively is to ensure sustainability,” he said.

“And at the same time we acknowledge the price pressure faced by the milk companies in the current market environment.”

Mr Depiazzi said he’d had constructive talks with Agriculture Minister Dean Nalder about ways to balance the supply and demand of milk in Western Australia to soak up the millions of litres of surplus milk.

“Mr Nalder’s department has been working with us to help facilitate us gaining approvals to look at re-opening a cheese-making facility in Brunswick, which could potentially provide an opportunity to diversify the milk supply market in Western Australia,” Mr Depiazzi said.

“But now we have to work with Brownes and Department of Environmental Regulation to get a licence to authorise the company to irrigate whey on land surrounding the facility,” he said

A DER spokeswoman has confirmed it has received an application from Brownes seeking authorisation to dispose of whey over a 200ha area of farmland in the Shires of Capel and Dardanup for a period of 12 months.

“There are a number of environmentally acceptable methods that Brownes can use to dispose of whey, including at licensed and authorised liquid waste disposal and composting facilities,” the spokeswoman said.

“Whey, when discharged into the environment, can present significant risks to waterways and groundwater resources due its high biochemical oxygen demand and nutrient and salt content,” she said.

“DER is currently assessing this application and understands that the Shires of Capel and Dardanup are also considering planning applications for the proposal.”

Meanwhile, Capel and Dandanup Shires have both confirmed they have received an application from Brownes and would be considering the applications in due course.

Capel chief executive Paul Sheedy said public comments regarding the application would close on July 29.

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