Free Yoghurt

Reporter: Graeme Butler

"Give us your empties we put them in the bin and say goodbye to all the eastern states imports and we're going to give you some Brownes yoghurt" Hand in your old imported yoghurt containers and get a tub of the local product for free. On one hand it's a clever marketing campaign, on the other it's a cry for help from an industry that's got its back against the wall.

Ben Purcell from Brownes says W.A is being swamped with milk products from Interstate and it's putting enormous pressure on local dairy farmers. The number of dairy farmers in W.A has more than halved in the past ten years - we now import millions litres of milk or dairy products from the eastern states every year. "Our estimate is that we import around 300 million litres of milk into the state now the state only produces 330 million litres so it's almost half of the milk that's consumed in the state in one dairy form or another is being imported"

The battle against imported milk products has erupted into a yoghurt war. Ben says its home grown yoghurt packaged in Balcatta taking on Eastern states yoghurts primarily from Victoria, he says the difference is freshness, the local product is on supermarket shelves just days after packaging, where the imports have to be driven across the Nullarbor taking another 3 or 4 days before hitting the shelves. "Our milk is collected from farms as little as an hour drive away whereas the imported yoghurt need to drive the entire way across Australia 3000km"

There's another issue facing W.A's dairy industry too if support from consumers wanes, dairy farming becomes less viable, especially given the growing value of land in our south west. Ben Purcell says this week's yoghurt amnesty is all about making people think about supporting the local industry. At the end of the yoghurt swap Ben will send the containers back to where they came from. "I'm personally going to put all these empty yoghurt containers in a truck and drive them all the way across the Nullarbor and sort of replicate what happens to the yoghurt that gets imported into the state"

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