Wednesday, 27 May 2020

QUEENSLAND Senator Susan McDonald has repeated calls for Coles, Woolworths and Aldi to increase the levy paid to the state’s dairy farmers.

Last year, Coles was ordered by the ACCC to pay farmers $5.25 million after it was found to have paid the farmers an average of 3.5c of a 10c/L drought levy it put on its cheap home brand milk.

Senator McDonald pointed out that farmers in the Scenic Rim west of Brisbane received 4.5c/L from the levy, while Far North Queensland farmers – who weren’t drought-declared – received 1.7c/L.

She said any levy should not just be about helping during the drought, it was about fair prices.

“The supermarkets and dairy processors have been asked time and again to pay fairer prices at least more than the costs of production but they have refused,” she said.

“Despite processors being bound by the Dairy Code of Conduct and being overseen by the Dairy Ombudsman, I am hearing concerns from farmers that they are having to fight tooth and nail as they negotiate contracts.

“There have even been suggestions by processors that the Code of Conduct should be delayed. This is a view I not only do not support but that I believe is unacceptable and not supported by the broader industry.

“All the large supermarkets continually promote how ethical they are in sourcing their products, but if they really wanted a major public relations boost, they should increase the levy, extend it across all milk products and pass that on in full to Queensland’s dairy farmers.

“If our dairy farms continue to struggle, Queenslanders will soon not be able to buy fresh Queensland dairy products and instead will have to consume product from Victoria or even New Zealand.

“I would also point out that the export price for dairy is higher than the domestic price, so the world is willing to pay a higher price for our dairy products while the over-consolidation of dairy processors and supermarkets in Australia has resulted in downward pressure on prices paid to dairy farmers.

“For processors and supermarkets to use Queensland dairy families as pawns in a marketing game is unconscionable and certainly not ethical.

“Raise the price now and restore some dignity to dairy farmers and some dignity to your own purchasing protocols.”

However, Senator McDonald said there could be a bright spot on the horizon as the Morrison Government looks to boost Australia’s onshore manufacturing capabilities post coronavirus.

“I am optimistic that this focus of the government on investigating manufacturing in Australia via a taskforce under Andrew Liveris will provide opportunities for diversified and boutique food manufacturing,” she said.

“This is critical to the ongoing profitability of the dairy industry in Australia.”