Dairy in Australia

Dairy is one of Australia’s most important rural industries, producing about 8.8 billion litres of milk in 2018-19 and directly employing approximately 46,200 people. It is the fourth-largest rural industry in Australia generating $4.4 billion in farm gate value in 2018-19. The majority of milk production occurs on the south-east seaboard in Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania.

Australia exports approximately 35 per cent of its milk production, with exports valued at $3.2 billion in 2018-19. A large proportion of exports are in the form of value-added products such as cheese, butter, ultra-heat treated milk and milk powders. Australian dairy is exported around the world.

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Industry information

  • Detailed statistics and information about the Australian dairy industry are available from Dairy Australia. This includes data on prices, production, exports and forecasts for the dairy industry.
  • The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) also produces detailed data about the dairy industry through quarterly Agricultural Commodities forecasts and publications. These are available at ABARES publications for viewing and download.

Industry bodies

  • Dairy Australia (DA) - The industry-owned national service organisation funded by farmer levies, with matching research and development funds from the Australian Government.
  • Dairy Australia has eight Regional Development Programs that cater for local dairy farmer needs in Gippsland, Subtropical, Western Victoria, New South Wales, Murray region, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia.
  • Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) - The national advocacy body representing dairy farmers across Australia.
  • Australian Dairy Products Federation (ADPF) - The peak policy body for commercial/non-farm members of the Australian dairy industry and is open to entities operating in Australia who are engaged in the manufacture, marketing or trading of dairy products and/or dairy related products.
  • Australian Dairy Industry Council (ADIC) – The national policy and advocacy body working to improve Australian dairy’s entire value chain sustainability and profitability through its two bodies, ADF and ADPF.

The Dairy Levy

Milk producers in Australia must pay a Dairy Services Levy based on milk production. This levy provides funding for the dairy industry services body, Dairy Australia, and is invested in research and development and industry services with the aim of increasing farm productivity, maintaining and developing value-added markets and products, and promotion of the industry. More information about the levy investment can be found at Dairy Australia, or on the department’s levies and dairy levies page.

Rural Research and Development for Profit

The Rural Research and Development (R&D) for Profit program boosts funding to the rural research and development corporations (RDCs) for nationally coordinated, strategic research that delivers real outcomes for Australian producers.
To be eligible for grant funding, RDCs must partner with one or more researchers, research agencies, RDCs, funding bodies, or businesses. The program guidelines provide further details of the eligibility and funding criteria. More information about the program can be found on the department’s Rural R&D for Profit page.

The Dairy Code of Conduct

The Dairy Code of Conduct (the code) – The code, which came into effect on 1 January 2020, includes mandatory requirements about the conduct of business relationships between farmers and processors.

Importing/exporting dairy products

Imports of milk products into Australia are restricted and commercial imports will require an import permit. Further information can be found at the importing food section.

Dairy exports are regulated by Australia's export control legislation. Further information can be found at the exporting dairy section.

Last reviewed: 6 October 2020
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