Call for sim­ple dairy con­tract

Countryman - - NEWS - Melissa Wil­liams

WA’s dairy pro­duc­ers have called for milk pro­cess­ing con­tracts to be made sim­pler, fairer, more trans­par­ent and uni­form.

Dairy fo­rums, at Brunswick Junc­tion and Mar­garet River, were co-or­di­nated by the Fed­eral De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter Re­sources as the first stage of its di­rect in­dus­try con­sul­ta­tion in the lead-up to im­ple­men­ta­tion of a manda­tory na­tional dairy code of con­duct.

Es­tab­lish­ing a manda­tory code was a key rec­om­men­da­tion of the Aus­tralian Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Com­mis­sion’s Dairy In­quiry. While it is be­ing de­vel­oped, the ex­ist­ing vol­un­tary code re­mains in place.

It is an­tic­i­pated the new code will be reg­u­lated by the ACCC and aims to im­prove con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween dairy farm­ers and pro­ces­sors and in­clude an ef­fec­tive dis­pute res­o­lu­tion process.

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment is con­tin­u­ing to con­sider the de­tails of the manda­tory code and is hold­ing in­dus­try con­sul­ta­tion meet­ings in key dairy pro­duc­tion ar­eas across Aus­tralia.

The South West fo­rums fol­low hot on the heels of Fed­eral Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter David Lit­tleproud’s visit to WA last week, which in­cluded meet­ing WAFarm­ers dairy sec­tion mem­bers.

WAFarm­ers dairy sec­tion pres­i­dent Michael Par­tridge said this was a good op­por­tu­nity to stress to the min­is­ter the im­por­tance of the manda­tory dairy code be­ing fair for WA farm­ers, given their unique op­er­at­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

“We are in an iso­lated re­gion and have lim­ited op­tions for milk pro­cess­ing,” he said.

“It is es­sen­tial we have in­put to the code to en­sure our dif­fer­ences are recog­nised and cov­ered.

“We want to see the code pro­vide fairer and sim­pler con­tracts be­tween grow­ers and pro­ces­sors, more trans­par­ent con­tracts and more uni­for­mity.

“We also want to see stip­u­la­tion of a 12-months’ no­tice pe­riod if a grower is go­ing to lose a con­tract.”

Mr Par­tridge said WAFarm­ers had been work­ing on its pre­ferred op­tions for the code for the past 12 months with Aus­tralian Dairy Farm­ers (ADF). He said the min­is­ter seemed sup­port­ive of mak­ing the code sim­ple and cost-ef­fec­tive.

“The key is to en­sure the dairy in­dus­try in WA is sus­tain­able and able to at­tract fu­ture in­vest­ment for its growth,” he said.

Mr Par­tridge said WAFarm­ers also raised the is­sue of their cost­price squeeze with the min­is­ter.

“We are not ex­pe­ri­enc­ing drought di­rectly, but high grain prices re­sult­ing from drought con­di­tions in the Eastern States have sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased our big­gest in­put cost — feed,” he said. “There is an in­abil­ity for us to re­coup higher costs through the sup­ply chain.

“While the min­is­ter was sym­pa­thetic, there is lit­tle he can do.”

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