Dairy inquiry reaches out to farmers
DAIRY farmers are being urged to contribute at forums being held by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in February.
The most accessible forum for South Gippsland farmers will be held in Traralgon on Tuesday, February 14.
Information gathered at the forums will form part of an inquiry into pricing and competitiveness across the dairy supply chain after the dramatic step-down in milk prices last April.
The ACCC’s report into the dairy sector is due to be handed down in November,
The United Dairyfarmers of Victoria is pleased the competition watchdog was reaching out to farmers.
“This inquiry is an important step on the path to reforming the dairy industry so we can make sure we don’t ever see a repeat of last year’s milk crisis,” UDV president Adam Jenkins said.
Jack River dairy farmer Marian McDonald said she hopes the events that have affected the dairy industry over the last 12 months will encourage farmers to have their say at the forum.
“In the past, dairy farmers have not been keen to engage with policy makers, you only have to look at the levy polls that were held a few years ago,” she said.
“There was a really poor turnout of voters and when Murray Goulburn did its capital raising, again, a low turnout of people exercised their vote.
“I am hoping last year’s debacle may change that.”
Now the ACCC is interested in what farmers have to say, Ms McDonald said it is up to them to speak up when it really counts.
“This is one of those times, we are not going to have this opportunity again in my lifetime,” she said.
With plans to attend the forum at Traralgon, Ms McDonald said her submission will be fairly detailed.
“It is not straight forward, but it boils down to risk in the supplier chain. It needs to be shared fairly by processors and farmers,” she said.
“I think it is a system that has evolved over a long time, based on having a couple of strong cooperatives.
“We can’t have a scenario where a processor is not making a big enough profit and can turn around and say ‘sorry farmers, we need to make a bigger profit’ and our price is reduced below the cost of production.
“There is something wrong with the system, when processors can just turn around and do that.”
During the height of last year’s dairy crisis, consumers dug deep into their pockets at the supermarkets and sent a powerful signal to politicians.
“Without those people making that statement, we wouldn’t be in this position,” Ms McDonald said.
“I believe the politicians want to act, but it is a confusing set of circumstances and they don’t know the right way to go about it, which is why the ACCC has been called upon.
“The bottom line is, the ACCC will make some form of recommendation(s), so it is up to farmers to have those recommendations reflect what is going to work for them, rather than the processors.”
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