Milk price drop 'feels like a kick'

Synlait, based halfway between Dunsandel and Rakaia, announced the revised price on Monday morning, ''along with a corresponding decrease in advance rates to farmers'', the notice said.

Federated Farmers North Canterbury dairy chairman and Synlait milk supplier Vaughan Beazer told Courier Country the move was ''not totally unexpected'', but ''feels like a kick''.

''It's like waiting for a relative to die of cancer.''

Mr Beazer said it was just as well dairy farmers were ''already working for love'' - if they did not love their job, they could not withstand it.

''The hole's just getting a bit deeper.

''A lot are going backwards real fast.''

Some people were getting out of dairy farming, especially newcomers who had entered the industry temporarily, he said. One he knew of was not even seeing out the season.

''The bigger the peak, the bigger the trough. We were princes last year. Now we're paupers.

''The problem is we are a price taker, not a price maker.''

The good times would return, but it would be difficult for some to last through the downturn, Mr Beazer said.

Non-essential maintenance was ''long out the window''. Now he feared essential maintenance would also be neglected and assets would be sold down.

However, he urged farmers to accept the help on offer, through groups such as rural support trusts.

He was starting to receive more phone calls as a Federated Farmers representative. Sometimes relieving stress was as simple as discussing a problem with an outsider who could add perspective.

''We like to be quite stoic, but sometimes we need to put our hands up.''

Dairy farmers needed to look out for their neighbours, Mr Beazer said. And while it might take more effort to find the silver lining to the cloud, it was there, he said. Some irrigation supplies were improving and interest rates looked likely to stay down for some time.

Synlait managing director John Penno acknowledged the impact the revised forecast price would have on suppliers.

''With the low forecast market milk price, it is shaping up to be a tough year for our suppliers and cash flows will be tight. But they are aware of larger market volatility and many of them have been planning accordingly,'' Dr Penno said.

''Our milk supply team is committed to supporting our suppliers and we continue to offer autumn premium payments, which will help offset some of this volatility.''

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