Call for simple dairy contract
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.”