As a pastry chef I am committed to supporting local producers and milk and cream are ingredients I use in my work every day, but not often enough do I stop to think about the consistency of supply and where it comes from. Australia’s dairy industry is entering an uncertain future as the drought blazes on, stalling growth in milk production.
The milk shortage started back in 2016 when Murray Goulburn, one of Australia’s biggest dairy co-ops, buying milk from farmers and selling it both nationally and internationally left a lot of dairy farmers high and dry. Withholding information about global milk prices dropping, Murray Goulbourn slapped large debts on farmers, causing many to leave the industry which has contributed to today’s shortage in production.
The Australian milk shortage has been a somewhat hot-topic in the media in the past few years, with supermarket giants like Coles and Woolworths reducing their home-brand retail prices to $1 and $1.10 a litre, but the issue runs deeper as the drought continues to blaze through rural Australia.
With weather conditions effecting feed quality and quantity, skyrocketing prices of feed and water, there’s no drought-relief in sight. With the drought expected to worsen in the foreseeable future, the Bureau of Meteorology recorded 2018 as Australia’s 39th-driest from the year 1900, the input costs are expected to rise for Australian farmers. As a result, Rabobank reported that we’ve seen a 15% increase of Australian dairy farmers sending their herd off to meat markets, causing a 12% reduction in the Australian milk pool in the last 12 months.
Milk supply has not only been affected in Australia but has stalled the world over. As one of the global Big 7 exporters — along with the US, EU, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay — we’ve seen the combined milk-supply growth continue to slow. Unfortunately, this isn’t expected to improve all that much in the next year.
According to Dairy Australia, Australia exports around a third of its overall dairy production but farmers are looking to nurture long-term relationships with Australian companies. John Hayes, the National Sales Manager of Bulla Dairy Foods, says ‘Over the past 2 years, Bulla Family Dairy have committed to increasing their direct supply from partnerships with Australian farms, rather than relying on co-operatives, as part of their commitment to integrity and sustainability.’ One thing we don’t consider when we talk about milk is how we also need milk to create cream. The market is seeing such a shortage of milk that Bulla, a family owned company, is one of the few in the Australian market still producing cream which many of their competitors have had to stop producing, instead focussing on other products.
To develop my recipes, I endeavour to use the highest calibre ingredients and in sourcing my milk locally I can be sure of its quality. As a business owner, I understand the mutually beneficial relationship between consumer and supplier and will continue to keep it local and support our dairy industry as they support me.
by Kirsten Tibballs