Dairy pro­ducer un­cer­tainty

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News | Times - De­clan Bush and Rueben Hale

Mar­garet River dairy farm­ers face an un­cer­tain fu­ture af­ter dairy gi­ant Brownes an­nounced re­duced prices, but no fur­ther cuts to sup­pli­ers.

Brownes re­port­edly told pro­duc­ers in De­cem­ber it would not cut more con­tracts, but the re­duced prices of­fered for milk have left some farm­ers uneasy. Cowaramup dairy farmer Bob Bid­dulph said the mood of the meet­ing was one of gen­eral re­lief, with Brownes ex­plain­ing its de­ci­sion to drop three farm­ers last year.

“Some sup­pli­ers are un­happy with the cur­rent price be­ing paid by Brownes in com­par­i­son with Har­vey Fresh, but there does not ap­pear to be any op­por­tu­nity for sup­pli­ers to swap at this time, so it’s a case of hav­ing to sit tight,” Mr Bid­dulph said.

Rosa Glen dairy farmer Tim Crimp said a dozen farm­ers sup­plied Brownes in the Mar­garet River re­gion and had nowhere to sell their milk if the dairy gi­ant did not pick it up.

“I don’t think a lot of the farm­ers un­der­stand their con­tracts,” he said.

“They all seem to think come June 30, they’re all out of con­tract, but they’re not. Warner Glen dairy farmer Ross Wood­house said he had signed another two-and-a-half year con­tract with Brownes at a lower price.

Mr Wood­house is run­ning for the Lib­er­als in the up­com­ing State elec­tion and said there would be un­cer­tainty among farm­ers af­ter June 30. North­cliffe farm­ers Michael and Fran­cis Arm­strong left the in­dus­try this month and could not ac­cept Brownes’ re­duced price of 45¢/litre av­er­age.

Bus­sel­ton farmer Ruth McGre­gor said she was also con­sid­er­ing her fu­ture as a dairy farmer.

Mrs McGre­gor and hus­band Ian have about 300 cows and pro­duce three mil­lion litres of milk a year for Brownes. “We have been of­fered about 42¢/l, which is un­sus- tain­able and would not pro­vide our farm with any in­cen­tive to move for­ward and ex­pand,” she said.

“We can’t avoid the fact that we must con­sider our fu­ture as dairy farm­ers.”

Last week, it emerged milk pro­ces­sor Lion was truck­ing milk from South Aus­tralia to bal­ance sup­ply.

Brownes was con­tacted for com­ment.

Pic­ture: De­clan Bush

Au­gusta dairy farmer and Lib­eral Party can­di­date Ross Wood­house says farm­ers are con­fused about the fu­ture of their milk con­tracts.

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