MP sour over cheap milk

SUPERMARKET giant Coles, which last week slashed the price of its Homebrand milk, is under fire from National Party

MP Thomas George for sparking a price war he fears will hurt farmers.

Mr George, whose state electorate of Lismore includes Murwillumbah, has called on Coles to reverse its decision to slash the price of its own-brand milk to $1 per litre.

Coles cut the price for a two-litre bottle to just $2 last Thursday in a move immediately matched by Woolworths.

On Friday Aldi followed suit.

Yesterday Mr George’s criticism was backed by Murwillumbah dairy farmer Corey Crosthwaite – one of just eight remaining on the Tweed – following decisions by others during the past decade to abandon the industry.

Mr Crosthwaite said farmers had already suffered a 20 cents a litre cut to the farm-gate price for milk in the past nine months.

And although that price cut came via their co-operative Norco, Mr Crosthwaite said, “It’s actually the supermarkets who are doing it.

“If you don’t accept their price you lose the market.

“Most of the farmers were in their 70s or 80s. It doesn’t hurt the old blokes as much but anyone that’s young has such a massive investment and gets nothing back at the end of the day.

“If you get a flood or a drought it hurts us, but it doesn’t hurt Coles or Woolworths.”

Coles has said it would wear the loss and not pass on cuts to farmers, but Mr George argued the move was “irresponsible”.

“Even though it (Coles) says it will absorb the price cut, in the long run this will cause a price war between brands, which ultimately comes back to the producers,” Mr George said.

“The dairy industry on the North Coast is still getting over deregulation, together with years of drought and now floods.

“Many farmers have left the industry and those that remain have had a hard time maintaining viability.

“This is a time when we should be supporting dairy farmers.”

Mr George said the cost of feeding cows was increasing because of the flood damage to many crops.

“I again call on Coles to reverse its decision and return money to the farm gate by renegotiating its current contracts to increase the price by five cents per litre to the producer,” he said.

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