A CLEAR before-tax profit of 20c per litre for their milk, being earned by at least half of the State's 121 dairy farmers, is one of the strategic outcomes proposed in a five-year Western Australian dairy plan launched recently.
All Western Australian dairy farmers who meet quality and hygiene requirements being able to sell their milk, is another of the plan's proposed outcomes - quite clearly aimed at preventing any recurrence of controversial events six years ago that forced a respected dairy farmer out of the industry and four others to accept reduced contract terms.
Creating a dairy jobs social media platform and an industry cost index, plus transparency and truth-in-advertising objectives to ensure WA consumers know where dairy products come from and their dietary benefits compared to alternative non-dairy products, are part of the plan which took 18 months to put together.
The plan proposes moves to identify and continually review export market opportunities where uptake of WA dairy products could provide industry growth, at least a 30 per cent reduction in industry emissions by 2030 and, most importantly, that dairy farmers and the WA's three major milk processors continue talking to each other about industry-wide issues.
The WA Dairy Industry Five Year Development Plan was formally launched by Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan at the WAFarmers dairy conference at Busselton last month.
"The co-operation that has emerged along the supply chain between milk producers and milk processors (during preparation of the State industry plan) has been really positive," Ms MacTiernan said.
"Increased profitability for farmers is extremely important for the industry to retain a critical mass to not only enable it to continue supplying fresh milk to the local market but to also have the capacity to grow into new markets."
Ms MacTiernan said a profitable dairy industry reinforced "the role of animals in a sustainable farming system".
She praised WAFarmers dairy council president Ian Noakes for his "leadership" in the industry and in preparation of the plan.
Previous dairy council president Michael Partridge had proposed a dairy industry 'roundtable' with processors to discuss issues, to Ms MacTienan in 2020 and at that roundtable in January 2021 Mr Noakes proposed a five-year plan be created for WA to complement the national dairy plan, but focus on local industry issues which are significantly different to those in the Eastern States.
At that meeting the WA Dairy Industry Working Group (WADIWG) was formed to create a plan at a series of further meetings.
WADIWG comprised of Mr Noakes, Mr Partridge and executive officer Laura Stocker from the WAFarmers dairy council, chairman Robin Lammie, former chairman Peter Evans and regional manager Julianne Hill from Western Dairy, Dairy Australia's general manager trade and industry strategy Charles McElhone, Ruben Zandman from Bega Dairy & Drinks (Masters milk products), Marc Anderson from Brownes Dairy and Malcolm Fechney and Kevin Sorgiovanni from Lactalis Australia (Harvey Fresh).
Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development representatives were principal business development manager Terry Burnage and Carmel Lyttleton and consultant Brad Weir was appointed as an independent chairman.
Mr Noakes said WADIWG had "tried to engage" with major milk retailers Coles, Woolworths and Aldi, which effectively control market price and how much per litre is passed back down the supply chain to processors and farmers.
"But that didn't go anywhere," Mr Noakes said.
He described the plan "as a first step" to enabling issues to be discussed by industry in the context of a competitive market.
At times previously he said he had "felt like Oliver Twist - please sir, can I have some more" - in negotiations with processors.
Mr Noakes said he was "absolutely grateful" to Ms MacTiernan "for recognising something had to be done".
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