The New South Wales Government has made good on an election promise and appointed its first dairy advocate, who is vowing to highlight the pressure farmers face at both ends of the supply chain.
Nowra-based Ian Zandstra comes to the role with almost four decades’ experience in the industry, including a position as chair of the Dairy Farmers Milk Co-operative from 2004 till 2013.
Mr Zandstra said part of his role will be to develop an advisory panel, which will be established after consultation with the industry.
«I will coalesce and try and find some solutions to issues in the supply chain and advise government what it can do, within its powers, to help support the dairy industry to return it to profitability,» he said.
«I will be independent of government — I think that’s so important.
«I have to be credible.»
Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said he hopes the appointment will help to turn the industry’s fortunes around.
«There’s no doubt the NSW dairy industry has faced some serious challenges in recent years,» Mr Marshall said.
«But I’m confident this role will provide the support our producers need and help ensure NSW remains a fresh milk state.»
Focus on supermarket prices
Mr Zandstra said the pressure from supermarkets to produce low-cost milk and cheese has stripped value out of the domestic market.
«One of the big tensions is, of course, a lack of returns to farmers from the supermarket shelf,» he said.
«The cheaper dairy products are now so competitive that they are bringing down the value of the overall shelf.
«One-dollar milk is now $1.20, and I think brands should increase their price.
«That means profitability will return to processors, which will pay farmers more.
«A big part of that is getting everyone in the same room.»
Push to drive farm performance
Part of the role will include a focus on using the Dairy Business Unit within the Department of Primary Industries to deliver targeted programs to boost farm profitability.
Mr Zandstra said while farmers are receiving a record price for their milk at the farm gate, there are still significant pressures on the cost of production, including high input costs and worsening drought conditions in NSW.
«I hope the Dairy Business Unit gets out on the ground, conducting discussion groups and forums on-farm, like the ones we used to have.
«That is part of advocacy — because farmers want to have meetings to talk amongst themselves.
«I truly hope this structure is built up by DPI at the top and is supported by farmers.»
Farmers back appointment
NSW Farmers Dairy Committee Chair Colin Thompson said Mr Zandstra’s wealth of experience made him an ideal choice for the position.
«He knows and understands the dynamics of the dairy industry, how it has changed and the opportunities for the future,» Mr Thompson said.
«The appointment of the advocate is critical for the NSW dairy industry.
«We need to address fundamental problems facing the dairy industry, like the inequities along the supply chain and the irrational prices for dairy products.
«To address these problems, it is crucial that there is a strong link between the NSW advocate and the ACCC dairy specialist at the Commonwealth level.»