The Queensland Dairyfarmers' Organisation said consumers shouldn't be fooled the big retailer's milk levy.
The Queensland Dairyfarmers' Organisation said consumers shouldn't be fooled the big retailer's milk levy. Molly Glassey

Consumers warned supermarket milk levy is a 'total joke'

WHEN news broke yesterday the Coles would join Woolworths and add a 10 per cent levy to the price of it's home-brand milk, farmers across the Queensland were overjoyed.

But like a drought-affected oat crop, that joy soon turned to dust.

The big retailers only applied the levy to the three-litre bottles of store brand milk and it will only last for a few months.

Queensland Dairyfarmers' Organisation spokeswoman Sarah Ferguson said the decision was a cynical attempt to avoid paying farmers a fair price

"We are livid,” she said.

"Putting 30c on just three-litre bottles is a farce.”

By the QDO's estimate, three-litre bottles are a fraction of milk sales so any revenue raised will be minimal.

Worse, Mrs Ferguson said it pushes responsibility for paying the levy on customers who can least afford it.

"It's large families that buy three-litre litre bottles, not couples or young people who would buy one or two litres a week.”

Woolworths will keep the levy until October when it releases a new Drought Relief brand.

This brand will sit along side the cheap stuff and Mrs Ferguson said it's a pointless exercise that could see shelf space shrink for brands that pay a good rate at the farm gate.

"My questions is which product lines are they going to remove to the put up their quaintly named Drought Relief,” she said.

Coles will place the levy on the 3L bottles until Christmas.

Again, Mrs Ferguson thinks the move will have no long term benefit.

"The drought is not going to end at Christmas,” she said

The QDO will continue to lobby the big supermarkets and the federal government to bring about meaningful change.

"When the news came out that Woolies and Coles agreed to the levy we thought we had something until we realised what this deal involves,” Mrs Ferguson said.

"We finally thought we'd got a bit of win, but you do the sums and you realise this is a corporate excuse to get us off their backs.

"Consumers said, 'Yeah, Good on Coles and Woolies,' but no one has cottoned on that this is a total joke.”

For it's part, Woolworths director of fresh food Paul Harker said the move is not meant to be a long term solution.

"We're clear this won't solve the wider structural issues facing the dairy industry, given Woolworths branded milk accounts for less than five percent of Australia's total milk production,” he said.

"The ACCC has made a number of sensible, evidence based recommendations that address the core issues impacting the dairy industry.

"This move is about easing some of the immediate pressure brought on by drought, while government and industry work through the long-term reform agenda needed to ensure future generations of dairy farmers can prosper,”

Beverage company Lion Dairy & Drinks also announced it would support the levy.

It will apply a 10 cent per litre levy on all Dairy Farmers and Pure White products sold in stores across Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

Warwick shopper Alan Kost paid $3.30 for a bottle of milk this morning. As a young man he laboured at a Gippsland dairy farm and watched his neighbours fight with the local factory over farm gate prices

He said no good came of it.

The three litre Woolies brand milk is his bottle of choice and he's more than happy to pay extra.

"It's good if it gets passed on, but is there any guarantee the companies are going to pass it on?

In all the campaigning for fairer milk prices the large retailers have maintained they don't want to put pressure on families cost-of-living and so they can't increase the price of milk.

Mr Kost said that was a poor excuse.

"They have me crying before long. It's b******t, when you look at reality, the price of an extra 10 cents per lite for milk is nothing when you are paying 1.50 for petrol is nothing.”

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