The value of trade for Australian dairy

Victorian dairy farmers Phil and Symone Vines are passionate about the industry and see the value of international trade relationships.

“As a farmer, you're an exporter – whether you know it or not,” says Symone.


Having hosted a number of overseas delegates as part of Dairy Australia’s International Scholarship Program, Symone sees the long-term benefits of building trade relationships. Delegates from other countries learn about Australian dairy farming practices and importantly, meet our dairy farmers and processors to better understand how we produce our premium products.


Symone says that these relationships are incredibly important for farmers, their families and their businesses, especially as the global market grows.


“We need to learn a little bit more about trade. I think to have a sustainable industry that is going to move forward in the future, we need to be looking at these international trade markets. It has a huge impact on our farmgate milk price,” she says.


Australia produces 8.1 billion litres of milk per annum – that’s milk than can be consumed domestically. If export was not an available option, then the Australian milk pool would need to contract to the level of domestic consumption.


Maintaining market access


Supported by years of market development work, today there is a strong demand for Australian dairy products in international markets.


However, many markets across South-east Asia, China and Japan represent further untapped opportunities for growth for Australian dairy. Where local milk production can’t keep up with consumption due to population growth and westernisation of diets – this is driving increased demand for imported product.


Northern Victorian dairy farmer, Rick Cross sees the opportunity to showcase our local dairy industry to the other countries to continue to meet this growing demand.


“We are creating a world-class product. It is trusted and respected around the world, and we need to market that,” says Rick.


“And we need to bring them in – create trust with our customers, with our markets, with our government.


“For many, this is the first time they’ve been on a farm. They will take the memories and come back and support us in the future when they become the major decision makers of dairy.”


Improvements to market access, reductions in dairy tariffs and charges and the management of technical market access barriers all contribute to supporting a greater diversity of market options for Australian dairy. This work reduces the cost of exporting, in turn contributing to higher returns through the supply chain – and ultimately farmers getting paid a fairer price for the milk that is exported.


Rising imports


In the context of trade, in the last few years Australia has seen a rapid increase of cheaper imported dairy – this is putting extra pressure on sales of Australian made products.


According to Dairy Australia’s Situation and Outlook December 2023 report, imported products accounted for 11 per cent of Australia’s dairy consumption in FY2000 – whereas in FY2023, this rose to 27 per cent.


“As an industry, we are exposed to the global markets whether we like it or not – and our future as an industry will depend on maintaining our competitive positioning,” says Dairy Australia’s Senior Manager – Sustainable International Trade, Catherine Taylor.


“Consumers now have more dairy options, often at prices below Australian made products. Export markets are increasingly becoming more important as a channel for Australian dairy, providing opportunities for both farmers and processors to further build and grow their businesses beyond Australian supermarkets.


“And growing international preference and demand increases opportunities to sell our milk beyond the Australian market for the highest price possible. This means that the Australian dairy industry can grow profitably.”


To find out more about how Dairy Australia is improving market access while building and maintaining strong international trade relationships, visit

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