It would be fair to say I've had more than a gutful of the treatment being dished out to Aussie farmers. Maybe I'm just a little cranky today. The 'smoke and mirrors' within the dairy industry, are equally contributing to consumer misconception.
The Supermarkets have been extremely successful with their SPIN surrounding $1 a litre milk (the WAR ON MILK, as I prefer to call it). They have publicly maintained there was no flow on effect to the farmer. Even the extensive Senate Inquiry was satisfied there was a benefit to the consumer, and chose not to take action against the marketing giants. Thankfully through a growing public backlash, we can expect them to pull the pin on $1 milk. Sadly they will shift their focus to another easy target, and cripple yet another industry in the process.
At processor level, the pinch is certainly being felt. One by one, almost all the major processors have dramatically cut milk prices to the farmer - by anywhere between 10% and 30% depending on your location. We have just be given a taste of things to come for the next two years...and to be honest - it is leaving a bitter taste in my mouth. Our family farm is nearing the end of honouring a 5 year Supply Agreement with Parmalat. The average price we received for our milk in that period was 55c/L. We felt this was acceptable, although were disappointed that is never rose with CPI (between 2007 - 2012). The offer on our table yesterday, will see our average price for the coming 2 years drop to 41c/L.
Loyalty within some agricultural sectors would certainly appear to be a thing of the past. For the consumer, locally produced fresh food appears to be heading in the same direction.
As farmers though, we must wear our share of responsibility. The large processors and huge supermarkets have really have done a great job - pitting farmer against farmer within supply groups, against other supply groups, between states.....The farming community should be banding together - all around our country. Seriously enough of the "us and them", the "haves and the have not's". Are we not all trying to achieve the same objective - putting food on people's plates...every day of the year? I have never been able to understand the animosity that continues to plague sectors of our great industry - I never will.
Dairy Farmers in every corner of Australia deserve nothing less than a solid financial reward. There are not many people left in our great country - who are more dedicated to their cause...tirelessly working 80+ hours every week, for you...THE CONSUMER. The tragedy is that many dairy farmers (mostly family businesses) have already been unnecessarily forced to exit the industry. Worse still - many farmers are now faced with the prospect of undertaking that workload at a loss, while hoping to survive.
And for the next generation....? We never lose hope that common sense will prevail.