JULY 2020 will mark 20 years since the deregulation of the dairy industry, and all there is to show for it is a severe decrease in operational farms and profits right across the country.
While dairy farmers were rejoicing earlier this year after major supermarket chains Coles, Woolworths and ALDI increased their home brand milk prices by 10 cents a litre, the majority of dairy farmers still hold grave concerns that the industry is becoming less and less viable.
The Atherton Tablelands is no exception, with farmers in the region not receiving enough financial gain per litre of milk to cover the cost of production, minimum wage increase and the state’s drought-related uptick in grain price.
One such farmer who is firmly feeling the effects of the declining industry is third generation Jaggan dairy farmer Malcolm McGregor, who is calling for structural change to ensure dairy farming doesn’t become unviable.
“The dairy farming industry is in a state of desperation,” he said.
“It has reached a point where the milk is being brought in from cheaper areas, and all that has done is keep the price flat.
“To give you an indication of how much dairy farming is struggling, 1000 dairy cows from this region were sent to JBS in Townsville for slaughter.
“In addition, only enough milk was produced on the Tablelands to supply Ingham north – everything from Townsville and south had to be imported which is frightening.”
Mr McGregor said a price rise of 15-20 cents per litre of milk is what is required to ensure the dairy farming industry can remain sustainable and produce a profit.
“The major supermarkets increasing their home brand milk by 10 cents per litre was great; however the farmers saw less than three cents of that markup,” he said.
“With the cost of production, wages and feed bills rapidly going up, it is just becoming too hard.
“For myself, the cost of production is 62 cents per litre and I am only receiving 59 cents per litre in return.”
Mr McGregor said he hopes to see Parliament take a more proactive approach towards improving the earning capacity for farmers across the country.
“Not enough is being done,” he said.
“Those in government are using a wait and see configuration, and if they continue down that path it will be too late.
“We’re losing too many farms which will in turn mean dairy farming is no longer sustainable.”
Mr McGregor said despite the wonderful work from organisations who are lobbying on farmers’ behalf, he said he can’t see the industry securing the desired 15-20 cent per litre milk price increase anytime soon.