Governments and stakeholders in the dairy industry need to lift their game, says Paul Mumford

By Geoff Adams

Governments and stakeholders in the dairy industry need to lift their game, according to UDV president Paul Mumford.

In a tough year for the industry, he has called on governments, processors and Dairy Australia to improve their performance.

‘‘The last year has not been an easy one for anyone in this room,’’ Mr Mumford told the UDV Conference in Melbourne recently.

‘‘The past five months have been tough — tough for farmers on the ground but also tough for UDV/VFF; tough to secure the attention and response that our industry needs to assist our farmers rise to the many, and growing, challenges.

‘‘Dry conditions, feed scarcity and cost, water prices, returns for milk — all these things have plagued our industry and the recognition and response from those in government and our supply chain has been, quite frankly, inadequate.

‘‘Farmer sentiment has been, and continues to be, extremely low across Victorian farms and an element of fatigue has increased amongst our farmers.

‘‘A welcome relief of state-wide rain in the last week has allowed short-term hope and optimism for many,’’ Mr Mumford said.

‘‘The rain appears to have had a 90 per cent-plus coverage over the state, with excess of 100mm in some parts of the north-east, 40 to 60mm in the northern irrigation district and 15 to 50mm in the south.’’

Mr Mumford said trading conditions were still extreme and many farmers would still be hurting with overheads, meeting costs of production, and rising debt.

‘‘Dairy Australia data emphasise this, with reductions in milk volumes across Victoria down again for the month of March by 12.9 per cent, bringing Victoria’s year-to-date to -8.2 per cent with expectations for the trend to further decline in the remainder of this financial year,’’ he said.

‘‘Milk price signals for the forthcoming season have already started with processors reflecting the true value of the diminishing milk pool across Victoria.

‘‘Even though the Australian dollar is weaker against the US dollar and commodity prices on the global stage are rising, we are seeing guaranteed milk prices of up to $7/kg MS, showing a significant increase on any preceding years’ announcement.

‘‘One would have to question if processors are forecasting the next season price to be at high average levels, why the current season prices don’t reflect this average.’’

Mr Mumford said the role processors played in Victoria must be addressed.

‘‘Processors operate in a changing world and we are currently seeing an aggressive milk price to ensure they secure their minimum milk supply.

‘‘This seems likely to continue into the next season and it is anyone’s guess where they will sit in 12 months’ time.’’

The conference also heard the UDV was losing membership.