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Australian farmers: Prices turned us into volunteers

Staff Writer | October 27, 2016
Australian supermarkets might soon need to import milk from overseas as a result of the unrelenting 'price war' affecting the nation's dairy farmers, a Senate estimates inquiry was told.
Down Under   Australia may need to import milk
Following a cut-throat price war earlier in the year, in which farmers were offered considerably less money for their milk solids, many farmers were forced out of business while many continue to struggle to make ends meet.

Public backlash to a decision by dairy giants Fonterra and Murray Goulburn to slash the price of milk solids from $4.3 to $3.65 per kilo pushed the government to announce a bailout package for struggling farmers, but some have told the Senate estimates hearing that it's not enough.

Dairy farmer Darryl Cardona said unless a supermarket milk levy of 50 cents per liter ($0.38) is introduced, Australian supermarkets might have to import their milk from overseas countries, including New Zealand.

"I pretty much guess that (importing milk) will happen in the next two years if it continues without any change," he told the Senate estimates on Wednesday.

Colleague Alex Symons said a 50 cent milk levy would not upset consumers, who, in large, rallied behind the struggling farmers when the issue was made public earlier in the year. He said it would go a long way to helping many struggling dairy farmers to at least 'break even'.

"It's not a big ask," Symons said, "We're not talking about making millionaires out of people here. This is about saving people."

"We get out of bed at five o'clock and say 'great, we're going to lose another ($750) today, let's go and do it'."

"We've turned into volunteers."

Dairy farmers who suffered most in the milk price war are now being asked by the major dairy conglomerates to pay their debts to the companies. According to Fairfax Media, the average debt owed to Murray Goulburn is almost 95,000 U.S dollars.