Scenic Rim votes yes to dearer milk as dairy industry

DAIRY: The milk wars continue, with industry bodies public scrapping about how best to support farmers.
DAIRY: The milk wars continue, with industry bodies public scrapping about how best to support farmers.

NORCO has thrown a spanner in the works for those campaigning for a better deal for dairy farmers by suggesting the initiative would not help farmers in the long term.

Queensland Dairy Farmers' Organisation launched an online petition Monday asking for supermarkets to put a 10 cent/litre drought levy on all milk and yesterday called on the Australian public to boycott Coles stores until they agreed.

Meanwhile an informal Beaudesert Times survey showed that the Scenic Rim is firmly behind the idea.

We asked readers if they would pay 10 cents a litre more on milk to help dairy farmers and the 128 responses offered a sample of public sentiment in the region, with 96.1 per cent voting yes and only 3.1 percent voting no.

QDO President Brian Tessmann said the proposed boycott came about by people angered at Coles failure to support the levy.

"Many people said they intended to boycott Coles because they have not come on board. We think that's it's a great way to tell Coles exactly how unAustralian they are about not supporting our dairy industry,” he said.

“Apparently the 75,000 Australians, likely a fair few Coles customers, who are backing this levy mean nothing to them."

QDO outlined what they called a “farcical game of who goes first” after agriculture minister David Littleproud received assurances from supermarket giant Woolworths that they would support the levy so long as all supermarkets did.

“So the fate of our Australian dairy industry now lies in the hands of Coles' managing director, John Durkham. 

“Durkham will lose his $2.155 million base salary when he finishes up his position as head of the supermarket giant in November.

Mr Tessman said Parmalat and Norco had openly stated that they would pass the full levy back to its farmers which meant that Coles could not hide behind the ACCC report from earlier this year, instead using its current drought fund as its excuse not to back the levy.

"We are asking the supermarkets for 10 cents; the money doesn't even come from Coles, it comes from the back pocket of the Australian public who have shown they want to help,” he said.

Responding to a proposed boycott of Coles, Norco’s chairman and interim chief executive Greg McNamara instead proposed a plan to pay Norco farmers an extra five cents per litre.

“Calls for a boycott of Coles are misguided and would only hurt our farmers by reducing sales of Norco products, impacting our ability to pay the extra five cents, and would not address the long term challenges facing the industry.

“Coles has also supported Norco’s decision to pay our farmers an additional five cents per litre for their milk to assist them in coping with the impact of drought.”

Mr McNamara said the supply agreement between Coles and Norco was an important and valued component to Norco’s business.

“Norco has a great relationship with Coles and we have been proud suppliers of both Norco and Coles brand dairy products for several years,” he said.