'Too little, too late' for dairy industry
THE damage may be permanent from the destruction of the Gympie region's dairy industry, even with a touted upturn in prices, according to prominent dairy identity Ray Zerner.
Higher prices would have to come in very quickly to keep the region's few surviving producers interested, the chief dairy steward said at the Gympie Show yesterday.
"Once they've gone they'll never come back," he said.
Speaking after dairy judging, Mr Zerner said the industry had been crushed by low prices and extreme weather.
"Exhibits are down quite a bit on last year," he said. "We're down 60 or 70 head on last year. We had 125 this year and 180-odd last year.
"Two of our top exhibitors from Monto and Biggenden got such a hiding with the floods they said they just can't afford to come.
"We've had three clearance sales in the last three weeks and another three this month still to come.
"There's one booked for next month already.
"It's sad what's happening. It used to be a good industry and now it's stuffed.
"People have had such a battering, they can't see any light at the end of the tunnel.
"The trouble is a lot of the goods they have to sell can't be sold because there is no one to buy them.
"We had a 200-litre stainless steel vat worth $60,000 to $70,000 and we couldn't get a bid on it.
"Quite a few are suicidal and even the export heifer market has stopped now."
Ironically, the good news is that while numbers of exhibits are down, the quality remains "excellent".
Mr Zerner was responding to a forecast price upturn next financial year.
The forecast is for possible full-year average prices up to 60c a litre more than probable average prices over the current year.
Although some analysts say this could usher in a period of recovery for the dairy industry, farmers like Mr Zerner say it sounds very much like "too little, too late".
The good news may also be tempered partly by the fact that farmers generally are planning to increase production, putting some brake on the predicted rises.