Scenic Rim dairy farmers unlikely to receive any more help from Coles

DROUGHT: Coles has discontinued its 10c levy on home brand milk products.
DROUGHT: Coles has discontinued its 10c levy on home brand milk products.

DAIRY farmers have started to receive payments from the 10c levy on supermarket home brand milk but for Scenic Rim Norco members this may be the last of the drought aid after Coles stopped selling the products on New Year’s Eve.

Meanwhile, National Australia Bank agribusiness economist Phin Ziebell said gains from dairy export price increases were offset by increased costs and lower production for Australian dairy farmers.

Mr Ziebell said costs were up for fuel, fertiliser, feed and water thanks to the drought conditions across most of Australia. 

“The NAB feed grain price index rose an enormous 74 per cent during 2018, and we anticipate that prices will remain elevated over coming months,” he said.

“Electricity prices also remain a concern for the dairy industry, and while they did not increase considerably in 2018, the longer-term trend is more acute, having nearly doubled by some measures over the past 10 years,” he said.

There was some relief in sight with Coles this week announcing its intention to release almost $4M in funds collected via their 10c levy on all three-litre home brand milk products between September 21 and December 31 last year.

Woolworths said they had already distributed $4.5M to more than 285 drought-affected dairy farmers and would continue to sell drought relief milk at $2.20 for two litres and $3.30 for three litres with the extra 10c per litre to be distributed to drought-affected farmers.

The Queensland Dairyfarmers Organisation said Australia Day celebrations had been soured for dairy farmers since 2011 when Coles first introduced the $1 a litre private label milk that marked the beginning of the end for some dairy farmers.

QDO spokeswoman Sarah Ferguson said the bit of rain that did fall over Queensland in recent months actually made things worse as many farmers planted, expecting further rainfalls which failed to materialise.

“The Bureau of Meteorology has predicted that decent rainfall is not expected until February,” she said.

Ms Ferguson said milk  production was also down in Queensland. 

“October production figures showed a significant drop in Queensland of 11.5 per cent from September, taking the year-to-date figure to 9.4 per cent,” she said.

“While Woolworths announced that it would continue to support the drought levy until June, Coles' (campaign) has ended - giving individual farmers a pitiful $6219. 

“At current Lucerne hay prices that would provide around 7 tonne.

"It is very clear that Coles only ran the Dairy Drought Relief because of media and consumer pressure.

“To them it was a PR stunt rather than any real desire to provide drought relief to the dairy industry.

“Shoppers still want to help our dairy farmers, they don't want to see the industry fail so our advice is either by branded milk like 4 Real or shop at Woolworths."