Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Queensland Senator Susan McDonald has advised supermarkets and dairy processors that she will call a Royal Commission into what she describes as ongoing low payments to the state’s dairy farmers.

After more than a year of advocating for farmers, an incensed Senator McDonald today joined Agriculture Minister David Littleproud for supermarkets to work with processors to increase payments to farmers by way of a levy on home brand milk and other dairy lines.

She said that even with the advent of the Dairy Code of Conduct from January 1 and oversight by the Dairy Ombudsman, some dairy farmers were still having to fight processors for decent prices.

She also scoffed at claims by supermarkets that increasing the price of dairy products would turn customers away.

“Supermarkets suggest that a price increase at this time would not be acceptable to consumers, but I say that in New Zealand consumers pay $1.66 per litre, and multiple surveys have shown Australians are willing to pay more for milk if it will help struggling farmers,” she said.

“I would add that if Australian prices had been allowed to increase with CPI from when $1/L milk was introduced, milk would cost about $1.76/L, not the $1.20/L or so that it is now.

“The other misconception is that Queensland dairy farmers need to be more efficient but they have cut costs to the bone and many can’t even afford to pay family members who work for them.

“They are up before dawn every day trying to make a living and then they also have to fight tooth and nail just get a farmgate price from processors that barely covers their costs – if they’re lucky.

“Supermarkets have no problem demanding transparency from horticultural growers around labour payments, yet when it comes to dairy farmers, but they turn a blind eye to less-than-the-costs-of-production payments by processors, in breach of the supermarkets’ own ethical supply standards.”

Senator McDonald has called on supermarkets and processors to commit to paying a fair price for milk.

“Dairy farmers have asked nicely, they’ve been reasonable but they’ve been ignored, so if prices aren’t increased, I will have no choice but to call for a Royal Commission into the consolidation of supermarket and processor power in Australia,” she said.

“The Government shouldn’t have to get involved but if it does, supermarkets and processors won’t have anyone to blame but themselves. Enough is enough.”