South-west dairy farmers are more optimistic about the dairy industry’s future after enduring tough times, the new federal agriculture minister David Littleproud says.
Speaking after meeting with regional dairy farmer representatives on Wednesday morning at Purrumbete, east of Cobden, Mr Littleproud said the best thing to come out of his talks was hearing “there is an air of confidence (in the industry) after turbulent times.”
He met with United Dairyfarmers of Victoria president Adam Jenkins and other dairy farmers as part of his plan to go to “farmers’ kitchen tables” and hear first-hand about the issues that concerned farmers.
On the outlook for the dairy industry. Mr Littleproud said Dairy Australia had told him there was demand in Australia for an additional 1.2 billion litres of milk and he expected that increased demand would flow through to better farmgate milk prices.
Mr Littleproud, who took over from Barnaby Joyce last month as federal agriculture minister, said the bid by Canadian-based dairy giant Saputo to buy the Murray Goulburn (MG) cooperative was among the issues discussed on Wednesday.
He said farmer shareholders in MG would get their say on Saputo’s bid if the bid cleared the Foreign Investment Review Board.
He expected MG would not call a meeting with farmer shareholders to vote on Saputo’s bid until the FIRB had made a decision whether to approve the bid.
Asked whether he had concerns that a successful Saputo bid would increase foreign ownership of Australia’s dairy processing industry, Mr Littleproud said Australia needed more capital, not less.
But he said that injection of more capital needed to be done through a framework that was in the national interests.
Mr Littleproud said the impact of rising energy prices on dairy farmers was another issue discussed at Wednesday’s meeting.
He said the federal government was working to build up electricity supply and ease prices through the National Energy Guarantee but power retail companies also needed to reduce their fees and charges that comprised half of most energy bills.