A bid to help drought-stricken dairy farmers stay afloat amid crippling drought has seen $3.1 million in relief payments split between farms.
Woolworths’ Drought Relief Milk initiative, which started in September, has seen more than 280 dairy farmers across NSW, Queensland and Victoria share in the monthly windfall.
Sixteen from the Hunter received another payment - through milk processing company Parmalat, before Christmas and it’s making a huge difference.
Read more: Dairy farmers walking a financial tightrope
The supermarket giant has now said it will continue the venture for another six months.
It hasn’t resolved the issue but it has helped, if we didn't have that extra money we wouldn’t be running this business at all – you can’t keep going into debt,Singleton dairy farmer Melinda Hassett said.
Mrs Hassett milks 320 cows with her husband Michael. They’ve been in the industry for 10 years and the past 12 months have been their hardest yet.
“The drought on top of the price we are paid for milk has made it worse. The cows have to have grain in the dairy and it has tripled in price to what it normally is … our costs have risen $10,000 to $20,000 per month.”
Shoppers are funding the relief payments when they buy Woolworths full cream or lite milk for $2.20 (for two litres) or $3.30 (for three litres). Ten cents per litre goes into the fund.
The money is distributed through the Drought Relief Committee, which includes Premium Milk Limited Chairman Peter Jervis, Dairy Connect CEO Shaughn Morgan, Parmalat General Manager - Supply Chain Vince Houlihan and an independent auditor from KPMG.
Payments are made on the 15th of each month and based on the volume of milk provided to Parmalat. Each farmer receives a minimum of $1000.
We know dairy farmers have more than enough on their plate managing the effects of drought, so we’ve been careful to keep the program simple and relief payments quick,Woolworths director of fresh food Paul Harker said.
“This means any extra money collected on the range is sent directly to drought affected dairy farmers by Parmalat in line with the usual monthly payment cycle.
“We want to find a pathway to a more sustainable dairy industry over the long term and will be engaging closely with industry to this end over the coming months.”
Dairy Connect CEO and Drought Relief Committee member Shaughn Morgan said farmers had used the money to help with the cost of buying in feed for their cows.