The Federal Agriculture minister has warned Australia could run out of fresh milk supplies if the domestic dairy industry isn’t given a lifeline.

Minister David Littleproud issued the dire caution yesterday, stating 500 dairy farmers had dropped out of the industry in the past year, many due to drought and market conditions.

Mr Littleproud is pushing for drought-linked 10-cent milk levy to be extended beyond its current temporary arrangement and possibly increased.

The levy was introduced by retail giants Woolworths and Coles to their private label milk in 2018 in a bid to help dairy farmers weather the devastating drought conditions affecting much of Australia.

Despite the levy, Mr Littleproud said supermarkets needed to do more to help the industry stay viable, stating dairy farmers have already asked in a senate inquite for the cost per litre to rise to $1.50 in a bid to keep the industry afloat.

“Dairy farmers have endured drought, fires and now they are dealing with increased uncertainty from the impacts of COVID19,” Minister Littleproud said.

He said the call followed years of devaluation of the industry and of retailers selling milk for $1 per litre and added that as supermarkets had prospered during COVID-19 there was now an opportunity to extend help to farmers. He said he had individually approached retailers to ask them to consider extending and increasing the amount so that it could be more evenly distrubuted to dairy farmers, beyond those who supply for private label milk.

“It is only fair that retailers play their part in giving farmers a leg up during this difficult time. This is a way of making amends for damage to the industry during the years of $1 milk prices. It will ultimately be up to each retailer to determine how much support they are willing to provide to our farmers,” Mr Littleproud said.

“Processors are also critical to the sustainability of Australia’s dairy industry and we will work with them to ensure the Dairy Code of Conduct delivers fairness and transparency. The Dairy Code has introduced clear laws about how farmers and processors are to conduct their business relationship.”

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