A SOUTH-east Queensland dairy farmer has taken on the processing giants, such as Parmalat, by selling his milk direct to the public and the risky move is already proving a success.
This week Greg Dennis started selling his Scenic Rim 4Real Milk in Warwick, now the most western point on a run that takes "minimally processed" milk from his Beaudesert dairy to shops across southern Queensland.
Yet it's been a steep learning curve for the fourth-generation farmer, who made the tough call to venture into processing last year.
He said crunch time came when processor Parmalat cut his milk payments by 25%.
"It just wasn't sustainable so we had to make a decision and getting out of dairying wasn't an option, because we had invested so heavily in infrastructure," Mr Dennis said.
So he took a gamble and invested $1 million building an on-farm processing and bottling plant on farm.
"I was confident consumers wanted a choice and we needed some control over price to stay in business," Mr Dennis said.
"I believe there has been a real swing of mood: people want to buy local food and they want to support local farmers.
"And we needed to survive in the dairy industry - to not just be reliant on, or locked into, a contract with a major multi-million-dollar international processing company."
His instincts proved right.
Four weeks ago when he started selling his minimally-processing milk to consumers he had supply deals at 60
"In the past 10 days we have had inquiries from another 80 so demand has already outstripped supply and we have waiting list," Mr Dennis said.
Production from his 240-head milking herd is in full swing and he has now started negotiating with neighbouring dairy farms as he attempts to meet growing enquiry.
"We are producing about 5000 litres per day and have the capacity to go up to about 6000 litres," he said.
"So while this may not be the way to go for all dairy farmers I definitely believe there is room in the market for independent labels."
Warwick Supa IGA manager Shane Smith said customer demand coupled with a desire to support local producers was behind his decision to stock the competitively priced milk product.
The product has the backing of mum Donna Clark, who grew up on a dairy farm.
She has been an outspoken local advocate for the milk.
"It tastes like real milk; it took me back 20 years," Ms Clark said.
"My kids love it and even as a budget conscious shopper I can't complain about price: it is cheaper than soft drink."
The 4Real Milk is available in 750ml glass bottles as well as 2 litre containers and is delivered to Warwick each Monday.
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