With 2018 now upon us the Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) has taken the time to take stock of the year that was 2017 and how it will affect the 12 months ahead.
Last year began with the national dairy industry still reeling from farm gate milk price drops in the southern dairy regions. Domestic and international milk prices left dairy goliath Murray Goulburn facing well-publicised financial difficulties which hurt the entire industry. Since then, however, international dairy prices have improved. The price increases in butter fat in particular have led an upward trend in the southern farm gate price.
With Murray Goulburn’s troubles playing out throughout 2017, Canadian dairy giant Saputo, who already owns Warrnambool Cheese & Butter, received the regulator’s final tick of approval to purchase Australia’s largest milk processor. If nothing else, this will positively change the current market dynamic, offering renewed management and competition.
QDO continued to battle on behalf of members surrounding ongoing inequities affecting the Australian domestic market. It was disappointing to see the Fair Milk Mark Bill proposed by the Katter’s Australia Party defeated in State Parliament but the State Labor Government’s promise to help and resource QDO to build such a logo was warmly welcomed.
Thanks to some additional pressure from people such as Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, we finally saw some national changes including the establishment of an ACCC inquiry into issues in the Australian dairy market. Unfortunately, the preliminary report was disappointing since while it acknowledged that farmers lacked bargaining power and carried the majority of risk, it failed to offer any recommendations for farmers to address the existing power imbalances. So far the ACCC process has shown that politicians need to intervene to ensure the inquiry delivers upon the political aspirations they outlined when they first established it.
The ACCC dairy inquiry as well as many other issues affecting the Queensland dairy industry will be top priorities for the newly elected five-member QDO Board that start their work in mid-January.