SA Dairy Farmers Association president John Hunt says demand for milk from the state's South East is outstripping demand, and more farmers are needed.
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Limestone Coast milk in high demand, South East needs more dairy farmers
SA's Premier and Minister for Primary Industries toured the Mondelez facility for its 50th anniversary.(Supplied: Mondelez)

Key points:

  • A Mount Gambier cream cheese factory celebrates 50-year milestone
  • SA dairy leader says younger farmers are needed as older farmers exit the industry
  • Milk processors in the South East source milk from Victoria to keep up with demand


Mr Hunt’s comments came as global cheesemaker Mondelez celebrated 50 years at Suttontown in South East SA, with a visit to the factory by Premier Peter Malinauskaus and Minister for Primary Industries Clare Scriven.

Mr Hunt said despite the commercial-sized operations of dairy producers within the region, many of the major processors, such as Mondelez and UDC in Penola, were forced to supplement their supply from Victoria.

The South East is the state’s most productive milk region, totalling 270 million litres annually.

Limestone Coast milk in high demand, South East needs more dairy farmers 1
Premier Peter Malinauskas tours the Mondelez philly cheese plant in Mount Gambier.(Supplied: Mondelez)

Mondelez alone takes more than half that supply to make nearly 80 million tubs of cream cheese products a year, and the company said it could take more.

Suttontown site manager Adam Borchers said Mondelez processed around 150 million litres of milk annually, and while the majority of that was sourced from farmers within the South East, it also relied on Victorian producers near the border to meet its needs.

“All our milk is sourced from within a 150-kilometre radius,” Mr Borchers said.

“Fresh milk continues to be a scarce, but vital commodity for us and we’re increasingly looking for more supply to continue to grow our volumes.

“With that said, we are very much committed to sourcing locally.”

The future

Mr Hunt said production had contracted over the past 10 to 15 years, but things were now looking more positive, with a new generation of farmers coming into the industry.

“People have been exiting the industry as the average age of dairy farmers is getting on a bit,” he said.

“Good prices for land and good prices for stock [cattle] has also led some farmers to go into beef or sell up and exit the industry altogether.

“But then there’s quite a few young people coming back into the industry too, which is a good thing.”

Limestone Coast milk in high demand, South East needs more dairy farmers 2
Dairy farmer John Hunt says educational pathways help young farmers get into the industry.(ABC Rural: Jemima Burt )

Mr Hunt said the sector needed education and ways to help the next generation of milk producers get into the industry.

“Dairy is a great industry to generate wealth,” he said.

“But we need the have young people come into the industry through different educational pathways, to see what the industry can provide for them.”

Globally, consumers can’t get enough of the quality and taste of American dairy products. Foreign exports of American dairy are twice the volume of the nation’s domestic dairy consumption. Last year, about 18% of U.S. dairy production was exported, and economists forecast that percentage to grow more than 25% in 2023.

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