West Australian dairy farmers without contracts are dumping their milk and are being forced into other industries, but the state’s agriculture Minister Mark Lewis says the dairy sector is not in crisis.
Earlier this year, nine farmers from WA’s South West were told by milk processors Brownes and Harvey Fresh their contracts would not be renewed due to a global oversupply of milk.
Three of these farmers are now out of contract and are being forced to dump their milk.
“There [are] contract issues with three growers,” the minister said.
“I’m aware that there are 157 dairy producers in Western Australia producing good quality milk being enjoyed by all Western Australians.
“It is an unfortunate situation and I do have empathy. But at the end of the day, it is a contract issue, and the rest of the industry is in quite good shape.
“I don’t see that as an overall industry crisis, and I certainly don’t get that feeling from groups like WAFF and others in the industry.
“I think talking about a crisis is not going to be useful for the industry, because it’s not a broad crisis.”
Minister is ‘out of touch’, farmer says
Dairy farmer Dale Hanks is one of the three with no contract for his milk.
“This minister’s out of touch like the rest of the ministers we’ve had,” he said.
“There is a crisis in WA in that nobody wants to deal with the last litre of milk in this state. We have probably 40 million litres surplus and if dairy farmers that it’s all good, look out next time contracts come around.
Mr Hanks said the State Government’s response to the situation facing the three farmers and the dairy industry was disappointing.
“Piss poor to be honest, absolutely piss poor, it’s terrible, disgusting.”
Mr Lewis said he had been speaking with the Federal Government and other parties about a longer term solution involving exports for farmers out of contract or coming out of contract.
“We have been in conversation with other people who are looking at export markets and I know of people who have been working in China around this for considerable time,” he said.
PHOTO Thousands of litres of milk being released into dairy farmer Graham Manning’s effluent pond.
“There is opportunities to create a broader based reform around an export market.”
Dairy farmer Graham Manning said he had experienced no meaningful conversation with Minister Lewis, or his predecessors Dean Nalder or Ken Baston.
Minister rules out compensation for farmers
Mr Lewis said while he had not spoken to the farmers, he had been speaking to the farmers’ local members of parliament.
“I think it is more appropriate that we work through those local members to make sure we keep the information flow tight,” he said.
“I don’t think we have to ring everybody that’s involved in say the frosts, for example I’ll working back through the local members, and that’s an appropriate way to do it.”
Mr Lewis said he had also not spoken to WA’s dairy processors and had ruled out compensation for the dairy farmers.
“I, like the premier, don’t think it is the role of government to provide tax-payer funds to individual businesses in these commercial contract arrangements,” he said.
“I understand that these are major issues for people at a personal level. I have strong empathy around their issues.
“I understand one of the producers was on the radio this morning saying he is working through and he wants to move on and that’s the cycle that needs to be assisted and we will provide that assistance at a personal level and a mental health level.
“We’ve already said we will provide assistance with veterinary assistance as well as look at whether we can help around disposal.”