END $1 MILK: Corndale dairy farmer Ken Bryant says the root cause of the dairy crisis must be addressed with supermarkets.
END $1 MILK: Corndale dairy farmer Ken Bryant says the root cause of the dairy crisis must be addressed with supermarkets. Sophie Moeller

Milk prices 'need to change'

A CORNDALE dairy farmer is grateful to Coles for the distribution of more than

$3 million from its Dairy Drought Relief Fund to Norco members, saying the amount is "not insignificant”.

However, Ken Bryant, who has been running dairy cattle on the family's 160 hectare property for three generations, said the crisis in the dairy industry will not go away until the "root cause” of the problem is addressed.

The NSW Farmer's Association recently said the big supermarkets must "end dollar-a-litre milk once and for all to focus on longer term solutions to build a sustainable NSW dairy industry.”

NSW Farmers' Dairy Committee chairwoman Erika Chesworth said farmers were upset their fresh milk was being devalued and that the industry's viability was being traded off for a marketing stunt.

Mr Bryant said the association was "spot on”.

"Given the severity of the drought, with no measurable rain on the Far North Coast for six weeks, and farmers unable to irrigate because of low river levels, the strain has become harder physically, emotionally and financially,” he said.

He said the demand for milk was high while in short supply but because of the contracts in place, the price does not go up to reflect market forces, as with fruit and vegetables.

His words echo that of Ms Chesworth, who said farmers were "angry that the discounting of dairy products has stripped the dairy industry of fair prices and long-term sustainability''.

"Australia has one of the most concentrated retail markets in the world. We need retailers to work with farmers to add value to our products and end dollar-a-litre milk.

"While the drought levies have provided some farmers with a little financial relief to continue on the farm in the short term, it will not be enough in the long run.''

A recent NSW Upper House inquiry found $1 a litre milk was driving the NSW dairy industry to breaking point, Ms Chesworth said

Mr Bryant said farmers were "waiting to see which of the big supermarkets will be the first to have the gumption to increase the milk price to its true value”.

The drought relief scheme that saw Coles add 30 cents to the price of Coles Own Brand three-litre milk, sold since September 21, has now finished.

Norco chairman and interim CEO Greg McNamara said it was great news that 639 dairy farmers from across Australia, including more than 190 Norco member milk suppliers, will now receive payments from the drought relief fund.

"I am pleased to advise that the co-operative was actively involved in the application process for around 80 per cent of the more than 190 Norco members who will receive payments from the fund,'' Mr McNamara said.

"As a 100 percent farmer-owned dairy co-operative, we really want to thank all the customers who supported this Coles initiative, which in turn has provided much needed assistance to our co-operative members.

Mr Bryant said he was also "very grateful to the faithful customers who had remained loyal to the Norco brand” and paid more for their milk throughout the current crisis, as it "gives us a greater chance to shift the price to its true value”.