Farmer urges PM to tackle Woolies, Coles on price war
AUSTRALIA Day 2011 was the nail in the coffin for many dairy producers, but luckily not for Aaron and Michael Clews.
The third generation dairy farmers from Rossmoya, 45km north of Rockhampton, were recovering from a big flood when Coles announced plans for $1 a litre milk.
Woolworths soon followed - a move which cost the brothers almost $200,000 over the next three years.
The Clews family are based at Slatewood, a Rossmoya dairy farm about 45km north of Rockhampton which produces around two million litres of milk a year.
On Saturday they had a visit from Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who toured their facilities and also met with about 30 local producers and business people to discuss the recently released Agricultural White Paper.
"To all of you who are so passionate about the rural sector, as far as this government is concerned we want farming and the rural sector generally to be an even bigger part of our economic future than it has been of our economic history," he said.
"The White Paper is all about trying to ensure that practical farmers are given a lot more practical assistance to get on and do better what they do very, very well indeed.
"These are practical things that are designed to make it easier for you to run your businesses, and there are other things which I think will tilt the system more in favour of the small farmer."
For the Clews family, the supermarket price war was the biggest issue."That's had a pretty big impact on us," Aaron said.
"If he could help put structures in place to handle that, different mechanisms like the food and grocery code of conduct, and a few other things to do with the ACCC … to deal with farmers and processors, (that would help us)."
Aaron said since the price war began about 150 dairy farms had disappeared across Queensland."We've struggled," he admitted.
"The result wasn't immediate … but our next contract was down maybe about four or five cents, and that was probably worth about $150,000. It might even have been closer to $200,000."
More recently, the cyclone cost them about $100,000.Mr Abbott said it was particularly good to have the chance to visit a dairy farm because the dairy industry has enormous potential after the new Free Trade Agreements reduced tariffs.
On the milk wars, while he said he didn't want to see more regulation he did want to see fair competition.
"An important part of the Agricultural White Paper will be the appointment of an additional commissioner to the ACCC specialising in agriculture," he said.
"There will be some additional resources going to the ACCC so that all of these farm issues ... can be addressed."