It’s been an incredibly tough year for Australia’s hard-working dairy farmers.
With unseasonably dry weather bringing about devastating droughts and bushfires, our local farmers have fought tirelessly against the elements to protect their livestock and their livelihoods.
And whilst local communities and volunteers have rallied around farmers to lend their support, it appears some people with the power to support them in their time of need may have been adding to their detriment.
In March this year, supermarket giant Coles announced that it would be increasing the price of its two and three litre Coles Brand fresh milk, with the extra money being passed on to farmers, in a move to ‘support a more sustainable dairy industry‘.
However, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has alleged that Coles failed to follow through and give farmers the full benefit of a 10-cent-per-litre price hike for its Coles-branded two-litre and three-litre milk.
The commission claims that when an unrelated 6.5-cent-per-litre increase to Norco commenced in April, Coles actually REDUCED payments to the dairy cooperative under the retail price hike to just 3.5 cents per litre.
The ACCC believed the 10 cents per litre should have been in addition to the unrelated 6.5-cents-per-litre rise Coles had already pledged. It labelled the company’s actions an “egregious” breach of consumer law.
Although they disagreed with the ACCC’s claim, on Thursday Coles committed in writing to pay a lump sum to Norco farmers within seven days of the seven cents per litre rise between April 1 and December 1 and continue to pass on the additional 7 cents to Norco farmers from December 1 until at least June 30, 2020. This equates to around $5.25 million, giving more than 200 dairy farms across northern NSW and Queensland an average $10,000 pay out.
Whilst this is a positive outcome for our dairy farmers, it begs the question, why was this allowed to happen? And how many other farmers are being squeezed by supermarkets focussed on profits rather than supporting smaller scale producers?
As a consumer, we can help make a different by raising our voices when it comes to our food supply and production. Paying better attention to where our food comes from and understanding the true ‘Cost of Food’ can help us make better, more informed choices that support our local growers and small businesses.
Looking out for Certified Organic, B-Corp or Grown in Australia symbols on packaging can help us to see which of these products meet the standards set by these important bodies too.