The milky way

The dairy industry in SA was at a low ebb earlier this year with many growers receiving prices for their milk well below the ever rising costs of production.
Coupled with a ruthless domestic market, a supermarket price war and the high Australian dollar affecting exports, farmers were really struggling.
Many were driven out of the industry.
Back in 1996 there were more than 370 dairy farmers in the Hills and Fleurieu Peninsula. Today there are fewer than 120.
The SA Dairyfarmers’ Association (SADA) hosted crisis meetings and farmers held a March for Milk rally earlier this year.
It’s hard to know what the primary producers can do when the reality is that milk processors and the retailers have the final say.
So SADA made a decision to do what no other dairy industry group has done before in Australia – launch its own brand and recoup some of the proceeds for an industry fighting fund.
Forty cents from every two-litre container of “SADA Fresh” milk sold will go towards financing projects that benefit farmers.
As a not-for-profit organisation SADA cannot legally re-distribute funds back to the growers but its board argues that the fund will be even better, focusing its attention on developing markets and value added products that grow their industry “their way”.
Fortunately SADA’s idea found support from an unlikely source – Coles.
Perhaps because of some of the negative publicity surrounding the supermarket price war or perhaps because of the shift in consumer support for SA produce, this major company agreed to a deal that sees SADA Fresh milk sold exclusively in its stores for the next year.
The consumer response to date has exceeded expectations.
The key for SADA will be to maintain the promotion and marketing of its product to capitalise on the “Spring Gully” effect – that desire by South Australians to support a local industry – like they did this year when they saved the Spring Gully pickles and condiments company from going under.
Unlike Holden cars, consumers can buy a carton or two of SADA Fresh every week and feel comfortable they are doing their bit to help local farmers. And unlike other branded milk, they can be guaranteed that 40c will go to the fighting fund.
But SADA must ensure its industry fund delivers on its promises and doesn’t get tied up in a bloated bureaucracy and wishy-washy investigations.
While it will take some years for this initiative to bear fruit, farmers and their customers need to see that it can deliver a sustainable and innovative dairy industry.