Is this the end of fresh milk?
BARNABY Joyce today called for a royal commission into the dairy industry saying it faced a "wipe-out" that would force Australians to drink reconstituted milk imported from overseas.
"The way it is going we will lose fresh milk altogether," he said.
The former Deputy Prime Minister had a crisis meeting with dairy industry leaders yesterday who told him the remaining 370 dairy farmers in Queensland faced financial ruin.
Mr Joyce, the preferred leader of the National Party according to opinion polls, blamed Coles and Woolworths for driving farmers to the wall paying just $1 a litre for milk.
Farmers in New Zealand got $1.70, he said.
Drought, lack of water, and rising electricity and fodder prices had made dairy farming uneconomic, Mr Joyce said.
He said Coles and Woolworths had been "jerking our chain" since 2011.
"We just don't seem to be getting anywhere with them," he said.
"Maybe they should set the price of meat at 2011 levels."
He said it was very convenient for the supermarket giants to both pay $1 a litre.
"They are operating in an oligarchy, not a free market," he added.
He said the idea the price was driven by a free market was "a load of bulls--t".
Numbers of dairy farmers have halved in the last five years.