Warning over Australia’s fresh milk supply

Australia could run out of locally made fresh milk unless supermarkets give urgent help to the ailing dairy industry.

That’s federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud’s alarming warning as he pushes for an extension and potential expansion of a drought-linked temporary 10-cent milk levy.

He said dairy farmers needed help from supermarkets while the benefits of a new mandatory code of conduct level the playing field.

“If they’re not treated fairly then we’re going to get a tipping point,” Mr Littleproud told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

“There won’t be enough dairy farmers in this country to continue to supply fresh milk for Australians right around the country.”

In the past year, 500 dairy farmers have left the industry amid pressure from drought and market conditions.

Mr Littleproud said if producers kept leaving the market in droves there was no guarantee consumers could rely on a supply of Australian milk.

“If we continue to lose the number of dairy farmers that we have over the last 12 months, we are in a situation, at a juncture, where the dairy industry itself won’t be able to sustain all the demand in this country,” he said.

Mr Littleproud has renewed his savage criticism of the supermarkets after curbing his attacks during the coronavirus panic-buying spree.

“Time’s up now,” he said.

He urged retailers to make amends for years of damage stemming from $1-a-litre milk.

“Yeah they did a good job restocking the shelves. But that’s just one thing, that makes them a quid,” Mr Littleproud said.

“They’ve got a moral responsibility to make sure we’ve got a dairy industry after COVID-19 and in the future.”

The deputy Nationals leader said processors were also to blame for stacking the market against farmers.

“I don’t want to see Australians get to a point where we’re importing fresh milk,” he said.

Queensland Dairy Organisation president Brian Tessmann said the levy should be applied to other dairy products like cheese and long-life milk.

He said failure to prop up the industry would lead to more farmers going under and a flood of imported products.

“There’s no cheap milk overseas, it’s only inferior product that you have to pay more for, so we have to look after the local dairy farmers or we won’t have a local supply,” he told ABC radio.

Mr Tessmann said profits had taken a hit after cafes and restaurants were smashed by shutdown measures, offsetting any gains from increased supermarket sales.

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