A STATE dairy industry leader warned this week that failure by the federal government to mandate a 10 cent a litre milk price would push Queensland's 310 dairy farmers "over the edge".
Millaa Millaa-based state councillor for the Queensland Dairyfarmers' Organisation James Geraghty said the government only had two sitting days left this year to push the milk levy through parliament.
"They only have today and tomorrow. Parliament rises for the year tomorrow," he said.
He said the only thing standing between the dairy industry and oblivion was the 10 cent survival levy. Mr Geraghty said that if the federal government failed to step in with rock-solid, financial support it would condemn dairy farmers to the dust bin. Mr Geraghty said that with federal parliament rising for the year on Friday, time now was of the essence.
"If they don't mandate the 10 cents by the end of this week when parliament finishes for the year, God help us. I have grave concerns for the industry if it doesn't happen," Mr Geraghty said.
It appears unlikely Mr Geraghty will see the increase pushed through before parliament rises tomorrow.
Senator Susan McDonald told Queensland Country Life this week that a previous 10 cent levy had been introduced by supermarkets and not by the government. Instead, she wants the supermarkets to commit to a permanent price rise of 10 cents rather than a levy, which she sees as only being a temporary measure. She is meeting tonight in Canberra with processors Lion and Lactalis Australia, as well as major retailers Woolworths, Coles and Aldi, in order to try to find a way though the price rise impasse.
Senator McDonald made the point that supermarket chains loved to wear their heart on their sleeves when it came to sourcing food ethically.
"You can't have ethical sourcing of product while you are paying farmers below the cost of production," she said.
"It is important supermarkets commit to an ethical supply chain and ensure dairy farmers are paid fairly and that this happens urgently," she said.
Senator McDonald said the Dairy Inquiry established under the Regional and Rural Affairs and Transport Committee will review the industry and determine what needs to be done to ensure dairy farmers not only survive, but thrive.
"There has been some talk of a floor price for dairy. I am very concerned this would only benefit the lower cost producers in southern Australia and instead would wipe out producers in Queensland. This will be examined in the inquiry," she said.
Mr Geraghty said the 10 cent increase would give farmers a price rise of 9.9c a litre for their milk, up from the 3.4c they are now getting.
He said an average farm producing one million litres of milk a year would be losing between $50,000 and $60,000 on current pricing. He said the extra 10 cents/litre would increase income on that same average farm by $100,000, giving it a margin of between $50,000 to $40,000.
He said farmers had been in a financial holding pattern for at least five years. He said spending was confined to essential maintenance. He said that most pressing was the cost of feed which had to be brought in to keep cows in production during the drought.
"We need to replace plant and fencing, but the priority goes in to buying feed for our 230 cows," he said.
"We asked the federal government 12 months ago to mandate the 10 cent rise. "They did nothing. Now, we are asking them again. We are not asking 10 cents and expecting five cents. We need 10 cents to survive," Mr Geraghty said.