From the Experts

High hopes dashed

By Dairy News

Has any other industry been subjected to as many inquiries as dairy?

Are there any other farmers out there who are not cynical whenever a new inquiry is named?

Senate inquiries have been commonplace as Governments announce them to deflect genuine calls for assistance from industry leaders and the National Party.

With each inquiry, farmers share their insight into what needs to be changed with politicians and their advisers.

Each inquiry ends with a long tome of the industry’s ills and woes, which are well known to farmers, and a list of recommendations, which are rarely enforced.

Cynicism was set aside slightly when Federal treasurer Scott Morrison asked the corporate watchdog, the ACCC, to investigate, mainly because of the respect for ACCC Commissioner Mick Keogh.

Mr Keogh is respected throughout the agricultural industry for his knowledge and clear thinking.

However, the interim report released last month has disappointed many for again reiterating known problems and not offering potential solutions.

It is well known that there is a power imbalance in the supply chain, with farmers relegated to price takers. There is also consensus that supermarkets hold power over processors because of the power of house brand milk.

Labor Senator Chris Ketter was put on the backfoot at the recent QDO conference in Toowoomba when told by farmers that supermarkets are more powerful than the Government, hence the Government’s reluctance to intervene.

Ketter denied this, but his protagonists on the day had a fair point. The ACCC has acknowledged this problem in the interim report but has not made any recommendations to fix the problem.

Mr Keogh has effectively put all his eggs in one basket — calling for a mandatory code of conduct. It is an important time for the industry to respond to this interim report and stake their claim for stronger and more relevant recommendations for Government to act on.

The deadline for submissions is January 31 and the clock is ticking.