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Dairy farmer gives up fight

Third generation dairy farmer Ray Gresham has called it quits after struggling with industry deregulation and more recently, the milk price wars between the two major supermarkets.
Third generation dairy farmer Ray Gresham has called it quits after struggling with industry deregulation and more recently, the milk price wars between the two major supermarkets. Craig Warhurst

ONE of the last and most prolific dairy farmers of our region, Ray Gresham, has called it quits following a lengthy battle to break even since the deregulation of the dairy industry more than a decade ago.

The drastic discounting by Coles and Woolworths was the final nail in the coffin for the fresh-milk producer, who had been struggling to meet rising operational costs against plummeting prices for his milk.

Half the herd was sold off yesterday as the third generation dairy farmer gave up the fight.

The Gresham dairy had been in a better position than most to survive the fallout from the dairy industry deregulation more than a decade ago. But despite increasing production to a point where the farm was producing more milk than ever to make up for falling prices, there was only so much a man could take.

"I just can't do it anymore," Mr Gresham, 40, said after loading 144 head of cattle on to trucks bound for a larger dairy farm operating under a more viable contract.

"It was bad enough last year, but it's getting worse.

"The latest round of pricing to come out is just ridiculous. There's no light at the end of the tunnel."

Mr Gresham said his exit from the dairy industry had reduced the number of dairy farms between Gympie and Kenilworth to nine from the original 155 farms.

THE Gresham's dairy farm is one of 40 across Queensland to fold since the supermarket milk price wars began more than 18 months ago.

As one of the state's youngest dairy farmers working a farm that had been in the family for three generations, Ray Gresham was considered a star performer by the Queensland Dairy Organisation (QDO).

QDO president Brian Tessmann said a long-time dairy farming family like the Gresham's should have had a secure future, but the dairy's demise was a classic example of how the industry had been crippled by the two major supermarket chains drastically reducing the value of milk.

"If these guys (the Gresham's) can't make a go of it in the position they were in, how can the remaining few?" he questioned.

"I think Coles should explain to dairy farmers' children why they won't have a farm in the future. Coles said its prices wouldn't impact on farmers, but the evidence is quite clear. The government needs to take heed of this and pay attention to the impact back at the farms.

"The domestic industry for milk in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia is clearly suffering.

"Large supermarkets are dominating the price and lowering the value of all milk and the money is not coming down (the supply chain) to the farmer. It's just not there to pass down.

Mr Tessmann said dairy farmers were united in their opposition against this issue and would keep fighting to get a fair outcome for as long as it took.

It's too late for Mr Gresham. He thought supply and demand would eventually balance out the impact from deregulation and continued working 100-hour weeks at a loss.

"To get up at 4am and work until dark to lose money. It was a business decision to close down. We can't keep going on losing hundreds of thousands of dollars each year."

Gympie Times

Topics:  dairy farm, price war




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