Throughout 2018, shoppers petitioned the supermarkets to assist dairy farmers in drought by supporting the 10c/l Drought Levy. Woolworth’s already raising over $4.5million to date. While we do not reject the $4 million raised by Coles, everything Coles has said and done in response to the 10c/l Drought Levy has been opportunistic and tokenistic to say the very least.
Case in point:
Coles waited until Woolworths announced its Drought Relief Milk range before it offered support;
Coles put the Drought Levy on a single line, that is, their 3 L Coles brand;
Coles refused to distribute the Levy back via Norco who supply their private label milk; instead of making it a convoluted and frustrating process for farmers;
Coles held on to the funds (and any interest) raised between September and December 31 and only distributed in mid-January whereas Woolworths were giving the funds raised back to their Parmalat farmers monthly via their milk cheques;
Farmers were forced to apply - read beg - for a slice of the funds, resulting in meagre $6,219 per farm being given to anyone that applied; and the final blow,
Coles stopped its Dairy Drought Levy on 31 December whereas Woolworths have extended their commitment to the Drought Levy until at least June 30 this year – acknowledging that the drought is far from over.
Prior to the Drought Levy campaign, the three major processors operating in Queensland and NSW were paying farmers roughly the same base price. Now there is a significant discrepancy, particularly the price being paid to Norco farmers who supply for Coles private label which currently sits 6.5c/l below Parmalat and Lion.
Put bluntly, unless there is a price rise of at least 5c/L in the very near future many Norco farmers will stop dairying and given the seeming instability of the co-op, Norco will find it hard to replace those farms that leave.
If Coles doesn’t reinstate the Drought Levy and pay it to Norco farmers; they simply will not be able secure enough milk to fulfil contracts.
With the Murray Goulburn debacle, floods, cyclones and the ongoing drought, our industry has suffered enough without losing our remaining iconic Dairy Cooperative.
It is time once again to call on the Australian public to make a stand against the tyranny of Coles and yet again, boycott the supermarket giant until they reintroduce the Dairy Drought Levy and give the funds raised to the farmers who are supplying them through Norco.
94% of responders to our social media poll want a return of the boycott of Coles. It is Australian shoppers want to support us. We need to utilise their power to create lasting change.