Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Greens leader Richard Di Natale both slammed Coles and Woolworths at the regional leaders debate in Goulburn last night, accusing the supermarket giants of “ripping off” dairy farmers.
The two politicians, who are on different ends of the political spectrum, were on a rare unity ticket yesterday when arguing it’s unhealthy for regional businesses if consumers are able to buy milk that costs less than water.
Di Natale called for government intervention, suggesting a floor price for milk is necessary in order to protect farmers’ livelihoods.
Sign up for SmartCompany newsletter.
Free to your inbox every weekday
“We need to decide whether we set a floor on it, I think that’s one option that’s up for debate,” Di Natale said, according to the ABC.
“But the point here is we cannot continue to have a sustainable dairy industry while Coles and Woolies are ripping off dairy farmers.”
Joyce, meanwhile, stopped short of backing a floor price, which he suggested could lead to stockpiling and other issues.
However, the Deputy Prime Minister pointed out the current situation can not continue.
Joyce urged big retailers to listen to the community and reconsider selling milk for $1.
“The momentum is there nationally for farmers to get a fairer deal, $1 litre milk that is cheaper than bottled water is not fair,” he said, according to The Australian.
“Retailers don’t want the government to jump on them, but we will if they don’t do anything.”
But Coles and Woolies say they don’t decide how much farmers are paid – processors do
A spokesperson for Coles told SmartCompany the supermarket giant buys its milk from processors, not farmers.
Because of this, it is processors such as Murray Goulburn that decide how much farmers are paid for milk.
“Processors set the price that farmers are paid, not Coles,” the Coles spokesperson said in a statement.
“Our Coles brand milk only accounts for about 3% of Australian dairy production.”
A spokesperson for Woolworths also told SmartCompany it buys its ‘Select’ milk from processors, not farmers.
“We know that customers want farmers to get a fair price for their product and the direct relationship between Woolworths and Farmers’ Own dairy farmers is delivering that,” the spokesperson said.
“The farm gate price is negotiated directly with farmers and both parties are happy with the agreement. Over the last two years we successfully rolled out our Farmers’ Own milk range in NSW, WA, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland.”