The NSW Nationals warmly welcome the news that Woolworths has effectively ended sales of its $1 milk, marking the end of an eight-year major supermarket price war that has hurt our farmers.
While Coles and Aldi have refused to follow suit so far, a growing number of people heeded calls from the dairy industry and The Nationals that the $1 price point – below the production cost for many farmers – was unsustainable.
Federal Nationals Member for Lyne Dr David Gillespie recently called for a 10-cent levy to support farmers if the major supermarkets would not act, and said he would introduce a Private Member’s Bill into the Australian Parliament if the major supermarkets and processors did not take real steps to support the viability of the dairy industry.
“Woolworths and a number of processor representatives met with me to brief me on this decision and I’m happy to congratulate Woolworths on this decision and give credit where it’s due. Well done Woolworths. I now call on Coles and Aldi to do the same,” Dr Gillespie said. “Coles and Aldi and the processors should now all immediately take action and do the right thing to ensure our farmers get a fairer deal. If they don’t want to take action voluntarily, and soon, then the Parliament may have to act.”
Dr Gillespie said the reason a 10-cents-a-litre milk levy was needed was to allow reforms to be implemented over the next 12 months to provide a fairer and more transparent supply framework for the industry.
“A mandatory code of conduct and a fair dinkum milk price index must be in place before this levy is lifted. I congratulate Nationals Agriculture Minister David Littleproud on his work to date in engaging with the industry to develop a new code and I look forward to this new framework being in place over the coming months. My electorate supplies a significant amount of milk to the New South Wales milk market and my dairy farmers need help if they are to remain viable now and into the future. If we don’t have a fair farmgate price that delivers certainty, then many farmers will continue to leave the industry and we won’t have a dairy industry.”
Federal Nationals Member for Page Kevin Hogan also welcomed the news, but said there was still much more to be done.
“The $1 milk has hurt our local dairy farmers. It is good that Woolworths has decided to end it,” he said. “Selling milk cheaper than water devalues the product and the work farmers put into it. All supermarkets should pay a fair price for all dairy – this includes cheese and yoghurt, not just fresh milk, which is a small fraction of the market. ”
The ACCC report into the dairy industry clearly stated supermarkets used their market power to drive down how much they paid processors, and processors then used their bargaining power to drive down what they in turn paid farmers.
“This is one of the reasons why I have called for a Royal Commission into the market power of our big supermarkets,” Mr Hogan said.
Federal Nationals Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said it should not have taken public brow-beating from a politician to force supermarkets to do the right thing.
“Publicity stunts like asking shoppers to donate at the counter to help struggling farmers are just a smokescreen to hide the fact they pay bugger all for milk,” Mr Littleproud said. “Buying your local brand of milk instead of supermarket brand milk helps dairy farmers, and shopping at independent supermarkets helps dairy farmers too. All farmers want is a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”