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'10c a litre would save dairying, if farmers fight for it'

KEEP FIGHTING: Gympie dairying couple Margaret and John Cochrane say farmers must not give up.
KEEP FIGHTING: Gympie dairying couple Margaret and John Cochrane say farmers must not give up. Renee Albrecht

AN EXTRA 10c a litre in farmers' pockets would save the Queensland dairy industry and protect consumer access to fresh local milk.

But even such a modest improvement will not happen without a fight, according to Mary Valley farmer John Cochraney.

Mr Cochrane says he understands doubts in the industry about the current inquiry intended to restore justice to the industry.

Farmers, he agrees, are used to being disappointed in government agencies that promise to help them.

"But we mustn't give up," he said, urging farmers to keep on fighting for the kind of fair deal which will keep fresh local milk on supermarket shelves.

He did not attend this week's Australian Competition and Consumer Commission inquiry hearing in Toowoomba because of a prior commitment.

"But I'll be talking with them in Brisbane soon," he said.

The milk market as it now operates would never give a fair deal to farmers and would kill the dairy industry," he said.

"Dairy farmers will keep on doing what business people do and they will keep working one against the other to get the best price, which means prices will continue to go down.

"When a supermarket is negotiating prices with a processor, the processor passes that reduced price onto the farmer.

"As a result, we have lost 70% of dairy farms in Queensland since we lost the protection that applied before deregulation.

"And answer has to be found if consumers want to keep on having access to local fresh product.

"The consumers continue to demand it to be better quality and cheaper.

"We've got talk in the newspapers about health and obesity and we've got farmers doing their absolute best to provide a quality product, but they're being gouged out of existence by supermarkets and processors.

"The simple sum is that an extra 10c a litre on a million litres of milk a year would give a dairy farmer an extra $100,000 a year.

"That's $10 per consumer each year, on average of 100l each a year.

"If a dairy farmer gets $100,000 extra, that goes to people and equipment and contributes to the local economy generally," he said.

The ACCC is inquiring into the milk price wars which Mr Cochrane says have created discount milk phenomenon, with unsustainably low prices forced on dairy farmers in a market dominated by a small number of big processors and supermarkets.

Topics:  australian competition and consumer commission dairy industry john cochrane supermarkets

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