National's complacency in the face of plunging global dairy prices is recklessly irresponsible as farmers and the communities around them see billions of dollars disappear in front of their eyes, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson.
“National has literally laughed off concerns over the looming collapse in dairy prices for over a year now. They haven’t listened to Labour, economists or regional New Zealand, insisting prices would bounce back.
“Fonterra's forecast payout will make life tough for many farmers. It also puts pressure on the communities around them. It means dairy farmers are $5.7 billion in the red over two seasons compared to a break-even payout of $5.70. And it gets worse for each region.
“In the Waikato dairy farmers’ debt is $1.5 billion. In Marlborough and Canterbury it’s $1.2 billion. In Taranaki it’s $600 million.
“National is not responsible for the global dairy price, but they are in charge of the economy. They have failed to support our regions sufficiently to diversify and create new opportunities. Instead they have been happy to ride the commodity wave and rely on the Canterbury rebuild.
“Even today John Key is being remarkably flippant, calling the price collapse a ‘blip’ and saying it will ‘come right’ because China will keep buying milk.
“This is reckless. Even Bill English concedes there is a ‘milk powder mountain’ in China. Not only is the Chinese economy slowing down, Europe and the US are aggressively competing to get their product into that country.
“John Key and Bill English are in denial. It's time they took off the rose-tinted glasses and played it straight with New Zealanders. The economy is stuttering and they need to front up with a plan to get it moving again,” Grant Robertson said.