These days, I feel a little like a chess piece; more pawn than queen.
The Australian federal government has rushed into a free trade agreement with Japan that does next-to-nothing to help Aussie dairy break through tariff barriers, even though Japan is hardly known for a growing dairy industry of its own that deserves protection. I don’t know why we were overlooked but a Sydney Morning Herald story quotes Warren Truss as citing “compromises”.
It’s been an interesting few days for dairy. Coincidentally, the ACCC forced supermarket superpower, Coles, to confess that it was lying when it claimed the $1 milk had not hurt dairy farmers.
At the same time, the media is littered with references to milk as “white gold” and so on, while our co-op, Murray Goulburn, contemplates a partial sell-off to raise capital.
And the milk maid? Yes, I’ve almost recovered financially from last year now but not emotionally.
A Kiwi who’s now dairy farming here in Victoria tells me that one of the differences he’s noticed is that there’s just not the “buzz” around our farmers in a good year that you get in NZ.
Why? First, we’re more battle-weary and risk averse after a decade of drought knocked us around. Second, we’re rightly a little more cynical. In NZ, dairying gets a lot of encouragement from a government that understands dairy’s huge economic impact on the entire nation. The sector accounts for about 3% of NZ’s GDP. Have a look at this economic statement:
“Rebounding dairy production drove a 1.4 percent increase in gross domestic product (GDP) for the September 2013 quarter — the biggest quarterly increase since December 2009, Statistics NZ (SNZ) said.”
– The New Zealand Herald, 19 December 2013
Here in Australia, the dairy sector contributes $13 billion to our economy but that’s considered small fry, accounting for less than 1% of our GDP, which totalled $1451.1 billion in 2011–12.
If we are to realise our potential, we need a government that helps dairy grow rather than considering it as a tradeable concession. All eyes are now on the FTA negotiations with China.