ACCC inquiry into dairy industry too late for some
NOT everyone is convinced the upcoming Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) inquiry into the national dairy industry will help dairy farmers currently facing ruin following the collapse of the farmgate milk price.
The inquiry was announced by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce at a recent Dairy Symposium in Melbourne and will look at the sharing of risk along the supply chain, supply agreements and contracts, competition, bargaining and trade practices in the industry and the effect of world and retail prices on profitability.
Local share farmer Jody Boyd, who milks about 250 cows a day at a dairy between Wangaratta and Oxley, supplying Murray Goulburn, said the support offered to dairy farmers was “pathetic”.
“I think it’s way too late for some people…a lot shut down within a couple of weeks and although you have to think some of them were probably close to shutting down anyway, many didn’t have any choice,” he said.
“Barnaby Joyce should have done something straight away, instead of waiting a couple of months.
“He might as well have stayed at home.
“You imagine having your pay cut in half, and then still having to turn up and do the same amount of work every day,” Mr Boyd said.
He added that he was fortunate because his costs were relatively low as he was a share farmer and he did not have the big input costs, but it was still going to be tough. “We will stay in dairy. “I’ve put 20 years of breeding in our cows, so I won’t be selling.
“It’s the younger ones who have already lost so much that I feel sorry for…it is just so cruel,” Mr Boyd said.
He said he knew of dairy farmers who had tried to access some of the support packages rolled out by the government, but they had been frustrated by the process and the time to get a result.
“It’s just all the rigmarole you have to go through…the amount of forms you have to fill out is ridiculous.
“We’re luckier here in the North East, we have pretty reliable low cost water and feed is a reasonable cost, but the guys in the Goulburn Valley are doing it tough.”
Mr Boyd said he believed Murray Goulburn (MG) directors should be accountable for their mistakes but the current situation had to be taken in a wider context.
“MG is still one of the safest dairy companies due to a lot of initiatives that the board introduced over the years,” he said.
“We could have been in a worse position.”
He said he believed that supermarkets held a large proportion of the blame in the current situation, affecting not only dairy, but other primary producers. “They are just too ruthless. “At the end of the day if you take advantage of one group (dairy farmers) to offer cheap prices ($1 milk for example) to another group, it’s just plain wrong.”
Mr Boyd said MG was no longer a true co-operative with the company now having to report first to the market rather than its farmers.
“In the old days we would have a conversation over the fence and understand what was going on,” he said.
“Now it’s all hush-hush.”
DAIRY HELP TOO SLOW: Local dairy farmer Jody Boyd is not overly impressed with the response by the Federal Government to the dairy crisis PHOTO: Jeff Zeuschner