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Coles and Woolworths 'out of touch' with farmers

MILK WAR: Maidenwell's Willy Brazier says dollar milk is impacting badly on farmers, despite what big business claims.
MILK WAR: Maidenwell's Willy Brazier says dollar milk is impacting badly on farmers, despite what big business claims. Rhiannon Tuffield

TWO of the country's biggest corporations have served another low-blow to dairy farmers, rejecting suggestions dollar milk is to blame for the industry's price crash.

At a final hearing of a Senate inquiry into the Australian dairy industry on Tuesday, the ABC reported the heads of Coles and Woolworths rebutted claims their $1 milk was to blame for the state of the dairy industry.

Coles revealed its fresh milk sales accounted for 4.7% of total milk production, with own-brand products making up 40% of dairy sales.

Woolworths head of buying Steve Donohue said Woolworths own-brand milk accounted for only 3% of Australia's total milk production.

"These are important numbers to provide perspective that no one factor is solely responsible for the state of the dairy industry," Mr Donohue said.

But Maidenwell dairy farmer Willy Brazier said the corporations were simply "out of touch".

Mr Brazier supplies his milk to Norco - a farmer-owned co-operative that injects revenue back into the agricultural community.

He earns a base of 47 cents per litre for his milk, but said that increased to about 53 cents after incentives.

"I do think personally that (the dollar milk) holds the dairy industry back," Mr Brazier said.

"They're a bit out of touch with the ground level and where it actually comes from.

"It would be fairer if it was around the $1.20 mark so farmers could at least make a comfortable profit on their product."

Mr Brazier said the corporations' comments illustrated how disconnected big business had become from the farmers who worked on the land.

"The price for milk is locked in at that $1 and it can't lift up above it," he said.

"By the time you take out the cost it takes for the dairy farmers to produce the milk, it's not much."

The ACCC is also conducting an inquiry into the dairy industry to analyse the sector and identify structural and behavioural issues that affect its performance.

Topics:  coles dairy crisis dairy farmers dairy industry milk price war senate inquiry woolworths

South Burnett

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