DOING IT TOUGH: Third generation Felton dairy farmers Rowan and Isabel Mengel are in danger of losing their operation due to the drought.
DOING IT TOUGH: Third generation Felton dairy farmers Rowan and Isabel Mengel are in danger of losing their operation due to the drought. Kevin Farmer

Milk producer hits back over calls to boycott supermarket

FARMER-owned dairy co-operative Norco has hit out at Coles critics calling for a boycott of the supermarket giant following its refusal to support a temporary milk levy.

The proposed 10 cent per litre levy would directly support drought-affected farmers.

Queensland Dairyfarmers' Organisation president Brian Tessmann this week urged the Australian public not to shop at Coles until it agreed to the levy.

"We think that's it's a great way to tell Coles exactly how un-Australian they are about not supporting our dairy industry,” he said.

"If Coles loses 10 per cent of its sales over the course of the next couple of weeks as people boycott the stores, I'm sure they will get the message.”

Despite widespread support for the levy Coles declined to introduce it, a decision major producer Norco has today endorsed.

Established in northern New South Wales in 1895, Norco's more than 200 dairy farming members supply over 200 million litres of milk to its bottling factories in Coffs Harbour and the Gold Coast.

The company is also the exclusive manufacturer of "house brand” milk and ice cream for Coles and Aldi.

Kenilworth's Julia Paulger and dairy cows 'Black May' and 'Sambo Passion' in happier times.
Kenilworth's Julia Paulger and dairy cows 'Black May' and 'Sambo Passion' in happier times. Warren Lynam

Norco chairman and interim CEO Greg McNamara pointed to this lucrative deal as he jumped to the defence of the supermarket chain.

"Norco has a great relationship with Coles and we have been proud suppliers of both Norco and Coles brand dairy products for several years,” Mr McNamara said.

"The supply agreement between Coles and Norco is an important and valued component to Norco's business and to members as a whole.

"Coles pays the farmgate price which is set by Norco, plus a processing margin and other manufacturing costs.

"Coles has also supported Norco's decision to pay our farmers an additional 5c per litre for their milk to assist them in coping with the impact of drought.

"The intentions of a proposed 10 cent per litre levy to be applied to the retail shelf price of milk are honourable, however it is the view of the Norco Board that our Members cannot wait and immediate action is required to assist our farmers through this debilitating drought and feed crisis.

"Calls for a boycott of Coles are misguided and would only hurt our farmers by reducing sales of Norco products, impacting our ability to pay the extra 5c, and would not address the long term challenges facing the industry.”


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