OPINION

Why Australian dairy farmers need our help like never before

Why Australian dairy farmers need our help like never before

The threats facing Australia's dairy farming industry have never been greater, and the only way they'll make it through is with broad community support.

The price of feed and water is rising and the recent harsh weather conditions is having a torrid effect on the famously stoic dairy farming community.

Mainstream Australia may not be aware of just how bad it's becoming - and how it will eventually impact them. You might be paying low prices for milk in Australia now, but on the current trajectory that's unlikely to last. Working in the beverages industry, we're seeing first-hand the impact that weather, foreign investment and government regulation is having on dairy farmers.

After 20 years in the business, we're now confronted by supply difficulties more than ever before. One company we've been working with has told us they've been struggling to get enough milk for their needs and the dairy farmers in their area no longer have any paddocks available. This isn't something we ever used to worry about.

So even as Aussie-produced milk becomes more expensive to produce and more expensive to source, it's important that Australian businesses take on some of the responsibility to back in the farmers in their time of need.

According to Dairy Australia, the number of registered dairy farms around the country has dropped from 22,000 in 1980 to less than 6000 in 2017-18.

That number will continue to drop without our support and Australian-made milk is in genuine danger of vanishing from our shops in the future.

So how can we help? Consumers can assist by making sure they buy direct from Australian dairies where possible and avoid mass-produced supermarket milk, despite the short-term saving.

Without our support, the availability of milk will drop and the price will rise. Businesses can do it by making sure they use Australian produce wherever relevant and possible.

Once we found out one of our suppliers switched from Australian sugar to Malaysian sugar, we immediately changed suppliers.

That decision cost us financially, but it was worth it because being Australian is a value held dearly to us and our customers.

We're encouraging other businesses to do the same for our dairy suppliers.

While the government works on a long-term solution, we can all help out in the short term. Let's keep Australian-made milk on the shelves.

Martin Buggy is co-founder and director of Bondi Chai