Lower prices and end of relief sour family’s dairy hopes

donna-edge

It’s why she laughs a lot. Otherwise she might cry.

From next month, the dairy processor that buys the milk produced by Ms Edge’s 130 cows, Murray Goulburn, has dropped the price it will pay the Carpendeit farmer for her milk to 36c a litre, down from her 38c/L average.

At the same time, the emergency farm household relief payments of $498 a fortnight that Ms Edge, her husband, Danny, and two children have been receiving for three years since drought sent their small farm’s finances into deep red territory, will end.

Those government allowances, which automatically cut off after three years, have been buying the family’s groceries and food.

“If last year was bad, this one is shaping up as horrendous,” said Ms Edge on her lush green farm early yesterday, having already single-handedly milked her much-loved cows from well before daybreak.

“People think the dairy crisis of last year is over but it’s not; there is going to be such a big gap between what Murray Goulburn will be paying us from July — when we expected prices to get better — and what it costs us to produce milk (that) it’s going to be a real struggle.”

Like many other local farm families doing it tough, Ms Edge has also had to resort to regular visits to the nearby Warrnambool Foodbank and received welcome food parcels and care packages from the Lions Club, Aussie Farmers and Hampers for Help group.

“If you have to keep borrowing just to cover your basic cost of ­production (for most Victorian farmers 42-46c/L), because the processors won’t pay you enough, you end up asking yourself in the dark of the milking shed before dawn, what’s the point of it all?”

Ms Edge harbours no grudge against Australia’s biggest milk processor, Murray Goulburn.

As a former supplier to National Dairy Products that went into receivership in February owing Ms Edge $100,000, she is grateful to MG for swooping in and picking up her 4000 litres of daily milk at short notice.

She calls the co-operative a “lifesaver” and also appreciates that with MG’s corporate debt exceeding $500 million and three of its 10 processing factories being forced to close with the loss of 360 jobs, it was financially impossible for chief executive Ari Mervis to sustainably pay its 2000 farmers more than 36c/L ($4.70 a kilogram milk solids) in 2017-18.

Ms Edge has already been on the phone to rival dairy processors to see if she can seal a better deal. Milk tankers from other processors pass her farm gate daily. Several have pledged to pay their farmers at least 42c/L from July.

With her cows producing 1.2 million litres annually, a 6c price rise would add $72,000 to Ms Edge’s gaping budget.

“Farmers are running a business, not a charity and if we can get a better price from someone else, we have to do it; the days of that old sense of loyalty to one company have gone,” she said.

 

Source: The Australian

Link: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/lower-prices-and-end-of-relief-sour-familys-dairy-hopes/news-story/a1053eb17031a2ac6cb91c9d0ad3f33c

 

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