Tasmanian dairy farmers are still struggling after last year’s farm gate mill price cuts, a national forum has been told.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is investigating competition between milk processors, and their contract and pricing practices.
About 30 farmers have fronted the ACCC’s only Tasmanian sitting.
Bob Bush from Scottsdale said Tasmanian farmers continued to be frustrated that supermarkets were selling milk at record-low prices.
“We’re all committed for X amount of millions of dollars, and got a big industry, and hire a lot of people,” he said.
“And at the end of the day, to the man on the street, we’ve got a product that’s not even worth as much as water.”
Togari dairy farmer and Circular Head Councillor John Oldaker said some farmers in the north-west were hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.
“There are some people around the place that are … really struggling, that pain is continuing,” he said.
The head of the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Council, Andrew Lester, agreed.
“The price being low all season has definitely impacted on a lot of farmers, and guys with high debt loads are going to be struggling the most.”
Latrobe dairy farmer Kem Perkins said he was most concerned about preventing a repeat of retrospective price cuts.
“Once you set a price, that’s what it should be,” he said.
“You shouldn’t be able to claw it back and put a hell of a lot of people under hardship.”
Kinder season helps some weather price cuts
Last May Westbury dairy farmer Ken Lawrence was losing sleep over a projected $300,000 drop in income after Murray Goulburn slashed its farm gate milk price.
He managed to stay in the black thanks to good weather, lower input costs and careful management.
“We didn’t cut staff — we maintained staff levels — so it’s just keeping a good watch on costs,” he said.
“We’re going to be able to make a small profit. We are on the right side of it, rather than making a loss.
“The season’s certainly helped because we’ve made … about 1,400 tonnes of feed between hay and silage. So that’s a huge amount of feed that we’ve been able to store.”
He backed calls for the ACCC to do what it can to prevent farm gate milk price claw-backs in the future.
The ACCC dairy inquiry’s report is due in November.