Australian dairy farming families are in Crisis

I don’t know about you but to me no-one tells a story from the heart more powerfully than Marian MacDonald. See  Sad Discovery that is Good for My Green Farm Girl

My story today comes from my heart to yours.  The Australian dairy industry in crisis. It is not just the domestic milk supplying states of QLD, NSW and SA that are affected.  The milk processing company Lion will endeavour to offload the 15c/litre* (see footnote) T2 milk it is paying its farmers into milk processing plants in Victoria and this will put severe downward pressure on farm gate milk prices in this state as well.

Victoria is known as the dairy state and currently 70% of milk production comes from south of the border. The current farm gate milk price in Victoria is already impacting on farm and this  new pricing structure for Lion suppliers I can assure you will have serious ramifications right across Australia.  

How did we get in this sorry mess you ask? Let me share what Dairy Australia has said in its In Focus publication.

“The two issues putting downward pressure on prices at present are – oversupply of milk in the Eastern states and the supermarket discounting of milk“ 

Now it should be as clear as the nose on your face that a milk processor like Lion could get smart and correct the oversupply issue by investing in a dryer for skim milk powder production for example which would allow it to take up the excess milk for export purposes. 

On the other hand we could have another ten year drought. Don’t think anyone will be suggesting the latter option.

Just so you understand why we have an oversupply of milk in NSW, SA and QLD. Dairy farmers were given clear market signals through large incentives paid by Lion to grow their milk supply businesses. Sadly Lion’s milk sales business did not have the same growth spurt

Now to the supermarket price wars. The supermarket discounting will end when they have achieved their objective of growing the home brand share of the milk market to their targets and ultimately the target is to have only home brand milk on the shelf and the strategy is working.

Supermarket’s share of Australian drinking milk sales is now around 53% and growing.  Home label brands now account for around 51% of total supermarket milk volumes, up from around 25% in 1999/2000.  This result has been rapidly assisted by the current $1/litre milk discounting marketing strategy

And as you can clearly see using milk as a loss leader is making them buckets of money. See “Another strong earning performance from Coles supermarket division “ 

How can you help?

To assist dairy farmers you can choose to purchase branded milk products not house brands. It doesn’t matter what brand as long as it is not Woolworths label or Coles label. This will support the margins of the processors and this offers the best opportunity for farmer margins.

You can also choose to purchase milk from venues other than Coles and Woolworths.

What can Coles Do?

It is absolutely critical that they stop using milk as a loss leader

So what solution will we chose?

What are we going to do Australia? Do we change our buying habits or do we lobby Coles?

I say let’s go both barrels. Love to hear what you think

AYOF  (7)

Look at these beautiful creatures Surely their milk is worth more than 16c/litre

Footnote I am yet to find a farmer who has received the mooted 15c/litre most people are getting between 11 and 13c/litre. The variation is caused by the different milk fat and protein percentages on farms 

Author: Lynne Strong

I am a 6th generation farmer who loves surrounding myself with optimistic, courageous people who believe in inclusion, diversity and equality and embrace the power of collaboration. I am the founder of Picture You in Agriculture. Our team design and deliver programs that inspire pride in Australian agriculture and support young people to thrive in business and life

6 thoughts on “Australian dairy farming families are in Crisis”

  1. I make a point of never buying any product that is a supermarket house brand, and definitely not buying house brand milk. I try to buy only Australian owned (getting more & more difficult) and Australian produced (ditto). I know it costs me more, and I am only one voice in the wilderness, but it is the only meaningful protest I can make.
    Our dairy industry is too important to lose. I never want to live in a world where Australian milk is a luxury.
    My belief is (rightly or wrongly) that the duopoly will end up crippling the Australian dairy industry and then end up flooding the market with cheap milk products from overseas. We can’t allow this to happen.
    I am horrified to hear people justifying purchasing $1 milk “because it’s cheaper” when their other purchases fly in the face of having to budget. They talk about having to purchase cheap milk as they have families. Don’t they realise that they are compromising the quality of produce that these families and their families will have in the future just to save a few cents?
    This is a prime example of the old saying “penny wise, pound foolish” with the pound foolishness being the risk to our food quality and security.

    1. Thanx Liz. This is exactly the type of feedback that will help all Australian dairy farmers to get up each morning and continue to what they do best and that’s supply nature’s perfect nutrient rich cocktail for Australian families produced by their beautiful cows

  2. Thanks for the links to Milk Maid Marian, Lynne, but how I wish it was over something we could celebrate. We need to find a silver lining to this cloud over Australian dairy farming and quick!

  3. I think that we should look at a vast array of tools to help on this issue, I’ll list down some as I think of them, I’m sure there are lots more:
    – Lobby the ACCC as if someone artifially pushed down a share price to gain more stock then they would probably be in jail, this is no different at all, just ACCC are very ignorant when it comes to Ag.
    – Make sure that our dairy farmers know that they are respected, by buying their brands and where possible making Coles know they are thieves and what they are doing is morally corrupt as being owners of such a large market share they have a social obligation.
    – Visit a dairy farm and gain an understanding of how they operate and the wonderful people & cows behind the brand.
    – Sell your shares in Wesfarmers (& Woolworths) take a moral stance.
    – We need to start to transition to having better links to our food producers i.e. direct purchase, local butcher/green grocer. As this large duopoly will end soon as both are straining the relationships of the suppliers and as we don’t need supermarkets, we can very easily purchase elsewhere. (they need us, farmers & customers).
    – Make sure your local member understands the pain that Coles are inflicting on our dairy farmers (& others).
    That is a bit of a start as to some of the options that we have, use whatever suits to achieve for our wonderful dairy farmers respect and a fair price for a beautiful product.

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