Milk price war hurting farmers

MILTON milk producers are urging people to buy Dairy Farmers brand milk to keep the local dairy industry afloat.

Three out of the four remaining Milton dairy farms supply milk to Dairy Farmers, while the fourth supplies milk to Bega Cheese.

Dairy men, Brian Anderson and Michael Ewin, have thrown their support behind the recent Dairy Farmers ‘permeate free’ campaign, but say purchasing local milk is more about economics than milk quality.

Every time shoppers avoid the cheaper, generic brand supermarket milk, and instead choose Dairy Farmers, they are supporting Milton’s farmers and the local economy.

Brian said, while the ‘permeate free’ marketing campaign – which explains that some companies add a watery dairy by-product to their milk - would influence some shoppers, he hopes people will make a conscious decision to support the local industry.

As a sixth generation dairy farmer at Milton’s Wickham Hill, Brian said he was concerned about the future of dairying on the coast.

“Right now I’m not really sure what the future holds for my two sons who want to carry on dairying here,” he said.

“The cheap milk being offered by supermarkets is having a devastating effect.

“When people buy Dairy Farmers branded milk, local farming businesses end up with more in their pocket.”

Three years ago, local dairy farms were thriving, but the ensuing milk price war between Woolworths and Coles, who are both now selling milk for one dollar per litre, has hit hard.

“You can understand that people want to save money and buy the cheapest milk on the shelf,” said fifth generation dairy farmer Michael Ewin from Woodstock Farm.

“But it would be good for them to understand that we can’t survive on one dollar a litre milk.”

Brian said for local farms to be profitable, milk needs to be sold in shops for about $1.50 per litre, with farmers receiving about 50 cents per litre.

“Anything less than 50 cents is not sustainable for us,” he said.

Both men are about to renew their contracts with Dairy Farmers and are bracing for a price cut of about three cents per litre for their tier-one milk and a loss of up to 30 cents per litre for their tier-two milk.

Brian explained that Dairy Farmers will pay more for about two thirds of the milk they buy, while the remaining third is excess and attracts a minimum price.

“They buy what they need for between 45 and 50 cents per litre, then will only pay about 15 cents per litre for anything over and above that amount.

“The excess milk is then on-sold to other dairy food companies,” he said.

It’s the tier-one milk that goes into Dairy Farmers’’ bottled milk and that brings in the most money for farmers.

The Dairy Farmers brand also produces cream, yoghurt and cheese and Michael is encouraging people to “think before they buy”.

“I’m always conscious of buying non-generic brand groceries and food because I know it’s the producer that ends up with less in their pocket at the end of the day.

“The supermarkets have cut milk, bread and now egg prices so low, but it’s the farmers that are hurting, not the supermarket.

“I hope people will make an effort to spend a bit more and support the farmers – not just with milk, but with any fresh produce.”

Brian said the money his farm makes is injected back into the local economy.

“It’s a vicious cycle, if we don’t have money coming in, we can’t afford to employ tradespeople or spend money on clothes or other luxuries in town,” he said.

There has been some confusion surrounding the South Coast branded milk, which Brian explained is produced in the Berry area.

“No Milton milk goes to the South Coast branded milk,” he said.

“All Milton milk goes to Dairy Farmers or Bega Cheese.”

“If people want to support us, they need to choose Dairy Farmers brand milk,” Michael said.

“I'm a Dairy Farmers' farmer – committed to making full cream, full flavoured milk the way it should be.”

Dairy Farmers claims its permeate free range of milks are less processed and contain all the natural proteins without the watery by-product of milk processing.

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