Macarthur dairy farmers disappointed with supermarket milk levy

Drought woes: Glenmore grazier Gavin Moore is doing it tough on the farm. Picture: Simon Bennett
Drought woes: Glenmore grazier Gavin Moore is doing it tough on the farm. Picture: Simon Bennett

Macarthur farmers are disappointed that Coles is yet to hand over drought relief funds raised from their milk levy.

Coles announced the 30 cent levy on their three-litre milk in October 2018 to help raise much-needed funds for dairy farmers across Australia.

Woolworths also announced a 10 cent levy on their two and three litre milk varieties in September and have been providing monthly payments to farmers from the funds.

Glenmore dairy farmer Gavin Moore said his farm had not yet received any money from Coles or Woolworths as a result of the milk levy.

“But our costs continue to climb and would be around 75 cents a litre, so in reality a farm-gate price of one dollar a litre is needed to make the dairy industry sustainable,” the Farmer of the Year nominee said.

“At this stage I really can’t say anything for the 10 or 30 cent Coles/Woolies levy except that it was a great ploy by the supermarkets to get customers through their doors and distract everyone from the real issue – that they need to abolish $1 a litre milk and support dairy farmers.”

Picton dairy Farmer John Fairley said it was disappointing to read about the levy funds having not been distributed yet.

“It’s terrible – I am not sure what’s going on there,” he said.

“I think it has been a bit of a public relations nightmare for Coles.

“I think there should be a permanent price rise on the sale of all dairy products to help us get through.

“We have to start getting on top of our bills and other things and preparing for the next time a drought gets this bad.”

A Coles spokeswoman said the supermarket had contacted more than 600 dairy farmers to let them know their application to the Coles Dairy Drought Relief Fund had been successful.

“The overwhelming majority of farmers we have contacted have provided very positive feedback on the fund,” she said.

“It is anticipated that all successful grants will be distributed by Coles no later than January 31, 2019.

“The fundraising period and target date for payment have not changed since the Coles Dairy Drought Relief Fund was established.”

The Coles fundraising initiative will also benefit farmers who do not supply milk to the company, whereas the Woolworths fund will only support its dairy suppliers.

Coles also established the Dairy Drought Relief Fund in October 2018.

The funds could be used by eligible dairy farmers to assist with feed, water and other farm improvements or relevant support services including household expenses.

Coles also matched, dollar-for-dollar, more than $3 million in customer donations at its checkouts for drought-affected farmers.

The combined $7.1 million in funds is being distributed by the Country Women’s Association.

A Woolworths spokesman said the supermarket had distributed $3.1 million to more than 280 dairy farmers since their milk levy was announced in September last year.

Funds are released to farmers monthly with the next round to be distributed on January 15. 

The supermarket also announced it would continue selling Drought Relief Milk for up to six more months while it worked with the dairy industry on longer-term reform measures.