While dairy farmers in south east Queensland look to the skies desperate for more rain, the weather conditions on the southern end of the Atherton Tablelands are excellent ... if you are looking to grow rice. After 17 days straight of recording rain, and the mud turning green, we are now having partially fine days. Really, why would you want to farm anywhere else?
Farmers are relatively happy with the price rise achieved in negotiations between Lion Dairy and Drinks and Dairy Farmers Milk Supply Co-operative (DFMC) for the FNQ region. While a modest rise of 0.6 cents a litre took effect from July 1 due to skewed pricing (lower in the first half of the financial year and higher in the second half), a further rise of 4.7c/L on the base price will take effect on January 1, 2021.
Quality and components bonuses and penalties are above this if the farm qualifies. Production incentive and retailer own brand payments are also on top of the base. The outcome will put FNQ on the same price as SEQ, a price that is differently 'built', but will be equal in the final price paid to farmers. I know firsthand the effort involved in trying to do the best thing for farmers and I would like to thank DFMC for continuing to do all they can to get the best deal for farmers.
But on the negative side of pricing is the continuing high price of inputs. Grain in the Far North remains at all time high levels. One sugar mill has raised its molasses price by about 50 per cent this year and the others raised it by 100pc. The rise has added $1200 per truck load of molasses. It is now up to farmers, both dairy and beef, to decide if it is viable to continue to feed it and to determine at what level it will continue to be viable. The world molasses price is responsible for the rises we are seeing and if Australian farmers don't buy the molasses, it will be exported.
Farmers continue to wait for an announcement from the Foreign Investment Review Board on the sale of Lion Dairy and Drinks to Mengnui. The announcement was expected some time ago but due to the current circumstances caused by COVID-19 it has been delayed. The outcome though is still expected to be positive.
Like all farmers, we are looking forward to hearing more about the plans for the future of the industry in Queensland especially, but indeed across Australia as Dairy Plan talks continue. The needs of FNQ dairy farmers are often deprioritised at the expense of the larger southern dairying regions. The merging of RDE and advocacy at both national and regional levels is essential to ensuring that all regions are given the same priorities and are funded appropriately.