Hopes new dairy plan will be a game-changer for industry

DAIRY organisations have launched a bold new plan in a bid to transform industry profitability, confidence and unity during the next five years and beyond.

The Australian Dairy Plan, launched on Monday, aims to drive a significant turnaround in the industry’s outlook via a range of initiatives.

It is the first time key organisations representing the whole dairy supply chain have worked together to develop a national strategic plan.

By increasing the profitability of dairy farms, implementation of the plan could increase Australia’s annual milk production by almost one billion litres, add $500 million of farm gate value for farmers and help create several thousand new jobs, mostly in rural and regional areas.

Reform of industry structures is one of five key commitments for change identified during an extensive nationwide consultation involving more than 1500 industry participants.

The plan sets out the need for more consultation and an industry vote as being essential for successful reform.

Other commitments include attracting new people and investment, a greater focus on marketing, increasing business and risk management skills and tools, and improving trust between farmers and processing companies.

Plan independent chairman John Brumby said Australia was one of the world’s leading dairy producing countries, with an annual farm gate value of $4.6 billion and employing 43,500 people.

He said the industry was vital to the health of many regional economies, despite experiencing a number of challenging years.

“The Australian Dairy Plan demonstrates a collective commitment of industry organisations representing the whole supply chain to pull together to achieve better outcomes for everyone working in dairy and the communities which rely on the industry,” he said.

“It’s a plan that has been built from the ground up. “One of the biggest listening exercises in the industry’s history identified a common set of issues voiced across the country.

“These inform the plan’s five key commitments and targeted initiatives to deliver increased profitability, confidence and unity.

“For farmers, it is vital that their hard work results in appropriate reward.

“The plan has a strong focus on providing farmers with the services and tools to achieve consistent profitability in an increasingly challenging operating environment.”

Mr Brumby said there would be a roll-out of initiatives to attract new people and investment into the industry, to help farmers grow their businesses.

“For processing companies, the plan lays out a program of activities that will help to rebuild milk supply,” he said.

“There’s a recognition of the need to rebuild trust with farmers and of the opportunities for the industry to collaborate in activities like industry marketing to promote the value of dairy and reasons to consume.

“For dairy communities, the plan provides certainty that the industry is committed to pulling together and overcoming the issues of recent times and offering long term, high quality employment opportunities.”

Mr Brumby said the focus was now on implementation.

Australian Dairy Farmers president Terry Richardson said the dairy plan had highlighted the interdependencies in the supply chain and the opportunities for the whole industry to benefit from working together more closely, like investing together in marketing and community trust activities.

“Key amongst these are initiatives to promote Australian dairy as wholesome and nutritious, reinforce the role of dairy in an everyday healthy and balanced diet, and influence key opinion leaders on the value of dairy,” he said.

Australian Dairy Products Federation president Grant Crothers said rebuilding trust between farmers and processors was a key commitment and vital to strengthening industry confidence and unity.

“The processing sector is committed to providing increased transparency around farm gate milk prices and the value of milk, and the introduction of a new Milk Value Portal has been designed for that purpose,” he said.

“In a post-COVID world, the renewed focus on local manufacturing and communities plays to our strengths, and with trust and confidence throughout the supply chain, we can grow our ‘world’s best’ manufacturing platform.”

Dairy Australia Board director Jeff Odgers said it was clear that farmers needed increased business and risk management skills to navigate an increasingly volatile operating environment.

“The plan puts forward a range of tools and services that we will make available to farmers,” he said.

“One of our priority initiatives is to intensify the roll-out of the Our Farm, Our Plan program.

“Our target is for all dairy farm businesses to have a documented long-term plan and for at least 75 per cent of dairy farms to be using risk management tools and products within five years.”

Gardiner Dairy Foundation chairman Dr Bruce Kefford said the plan was also about keeping a strong focus on successful industry programs and leveraging them more effectively.

“This includes ongoing work in research and innovation, policy leadership, market development, capability development, leadership, culture and sustainability, where the industry has recognised expertise,” he said.