The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has extended the immunity previously granted to dairy farmers in south-east Queensland for a further five years to continue collective bargaining with Parmalat. 

"The authorisation granted by the ACCC allows dairy farmers, through Premium Milk, to collectively negotiate with Parmalat Australia," said ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel.

"Dairy farmers in south-east Queensland have been collectively negotiating the terms of their milk supply contracts, including pricing, with Parmalat since 2001. The authorisation granted by the ACCC in 2001 was to expire earlier this year, however Premium sought to extend the arrangements and the ACCC has now granted this request. 

"The ACCC's decision provides certainty to the affected dairy farmers and Parmalat, enabling them to continue their negotiations without undue disruption," Samuel added.

Premium argued that the collective bargaining arrangements, which are supported by Parmalat, have resulted in benefits for dairy farmers including cost savings and giving farmers certainty to invest and improve their businesses.

Dairy farmers in other parts of Australia may also collectively negotiate with dairy processors under a separate authorisation granted by the Australian Competition Tribunal to the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation (now Australian Dairy Farmers) in 2002. The ACCC is currently considering a similar request for the immunity granted to these arrangements to be extended until 1 July 2010.