Rob Harnett on his dairy farm, Norco deal with China.
Rob Harnett on his dairy farm, Norco deal with China. John Gass

Fresh deal for Tweed dairy farms exporting milk to China

BURRINGBAR dairy farmers Rob and Sue Harnett have plenty to moo about now that a major trading deal between Chinese buyers and Norco milk co-operative has gone ahead.

In an Australian first, fresh pasteurised milk will be shipped straight from local dairy factories into China within its normal shelf-life of seven days.

The deal is a "game changer" for farmers such as Mr Harnett, a fourth-generation dairy farmer who runs between 70-100 head of cows on his Burringbar and Mooball properties.

"This deal is an opportunity to gain better returns than what we would receive for our fresh milk domestically," Mr Harnett said.

For the last 12 months the average return to farmers who sell milk into the Australian supermarkets was under 50 cents a litre.

Anticipated retail prices in China are between $7-$9 per litre and the logistics chain has the capacity to deliver more than 20 million litres in the first 12 months of operation.

"That's a significant amount of milk and only a part of what Norco normally sells," Mr Harnett explained.

Trading into the lucrative Chinese market is notoriously difficult - businesses must be able to produce high volumes consistently, while adhering to stringent quality checks on the ground with Chinese authorities.

"You can't sell it until prove you can deliver it. It has been a huge achievement just to jump through all those hoops," Mr Harnett said.

Closing the deal took a year with the help of strategic partnership between Peloris Global Sourcing, Dairy Connect New South Wales and Norco.

Now, the businesses have an unprecedented quarantine clearance agreement with China, where there is a shortage of fresh milk and Australian-made products are highly regarded.

The first delivery into China of over 4000 litres of milk was shipped last week.



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