Story Added : 20th April 2011
It is time for some people in agriculture to tell it like it really is.
And it would not hurt if they were joined by a swag of our country’s polling-fixated politicians, more interested in sound bites than sound government.
Let’s start with dairy farmers.
Just what is all the carry on about supermarkets cutting the price of milk?
A product their home brands have been selling significantly below cost for several years, not months.
But once they drew attention to savings for customers all hell broke loose amongst the ill-informed.
Both producers and politicians.
Quite clearly no-one again sat down to do the sums – except in how much media coverage could be obtained and how many equally ill-informed votes garnered.
First and foremost, our dairy industry is not about the domestic milk market.
In Victoria alone, dairy exports are the largest single user of the Port of Melbourne.
Carton milk accounts for barely a quarter of national production. The balance goes into value-added products such as cheeses, yoghurts and butter.
Now, let’s break it down further.
Industry analysts report about 51 per cent of drinking milk goes through the supermarket network and about 50 per cent of that is marketed under assorted home brand labels.
Then you have to take into account that milk only sells for $1 a litre if you buy more than a litre such as two, or three litres.
So, now the numbers are shrinking fast and it appears less than seven per cent of all milk produced by our hard-hit dairy farmers is being brutally marketed at $1 a litre.
What the hell is all the fuss about?
The poor old consumer gets a bargain and let’s be honest, with supermarkets, and any big business there is no such thing as a free lunch, so somewhere else customers are paying for the cheap drink.
Yet our politicians are staging full-blown inquires, damning supermarkets for raping the industry and, what a bonus, getting lots of coverage from equally ill-informed mainstream media more interested in a sound bite than the facts.
In the past few years politicians and farmer groups have turned the supermarket industry inside out and upside down and come up with diddly squat to suggest, let alone prove, there is some grand conspiracy to drive the farmer out of business.
Are the supermarket giants ruthless? Absolutely.
Do they care more about profit and share prices than farmer wellbeing? Absolutely.
So, let’s get on with it.
The dairy industry should be targeting soaring global demand, which is dragging prices higher and higher, instead of bickering over a veritable drop in the milky white ocean of production.
Just for once it would be great to see someone in farming step up to the microphone and shout responsibility for our industry and our future.