Dairy processors are courting farmers in a bid to secure supply, but industry says the best offerings need to improve seven cents a litre.
A shortage of liquid milk in south-east Queensland is driving demand, made worse by drought. Now processors from Parmalat to Coles Direct are wooing North Coast producers in particular to join their team.
Lismore-based co-operative Norco is having the most success, signing up a significant percentage of dairy production - one estimates 20 million litres - in the greater Manning region, from Dungog to Comboyne. They are offering up to 63 cents a litre base price, or at least a couple cents above Parmalat and Saputo.
The increase in pennies will make a significant difference for Philip and Debbie Borham, on the Comboyne, where four out of 10 farmers made the switch to Norco, mostly away from Saputo.
The Taree Collective Bargaining Group which supplies Woolworths under a very fluid contract will stay put on the same money, but chairman Tim Bale applauded Norco's actions saying they adhered to co-operative principals of leading the market and setting the price.
Hunter Valley dairy consultant David Ninness said it was pleasing to see attention lavished on farmers, but no processor had yet offered enough. "Farmers want to see at least 70c/L," he said.