Woolworths is “very sneakily” misleading consumers by disguising its home brand milk with a premium-looking “Farmers” label, a dairy industry representative has claimed.
The representative – from a collective that negotiates prices with milk processors on behalf of dairy farmers – said consumers were being tricked by the ‘Farmers’ Own’ label, which he said was merely another “money maker” for the supermarket chain.
“It is very sneaky. The ill-informed customer thinks they’re helping the farmer and they are to a certain point,” Premium Group spokesman John Cochrane said.
“But the supermarket gets a lot more.”
A consumer would only know that Farmers’ Own was a Woolworths home brand by looking at fine print on the back of the carton.
While the Farmers’ Own brand does give “a little more money” to farmers, it was still not enough, Mr Cochrane said.
Mr Cochrane also said that Coles’ offer to introduce a home brand milk that was 20c more expensive in addition to its $1 a litre offering was a “furphy” because consumers rarely flocked to new brands, meaning this milk would afford farmers little extra revenue.
Dairy farmers have been left hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt after Australia’s largest dairy processor Murray Goulburn and New Zealand processor Fonterra unexpectedly slashed prices within a week of each other.
On Wednesday, Agriculture Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce announced affected farmers would receive a $555 million concessional loan package.
The Farmers’ Own brand is processed by Parmalat for Woolworths, but Woolworths negotiated the price it paid for the milk directly with the farmer rather than the processor.
When Farmers’ Own launched in Queensland, Conondale farmer Lucas Kennedy said the deal meant he had more negotiating power when setting a price, which is locked in for three years.
“All I can say is Woolworths came to me and said ‘come back to us with a sustainable milk price’. We agreed on a price that I felt we could start working off and put us in a position,” Mr Kennedy said.
Premium Group’s Mr Cochrane said a 10c levy should be placed on each litre of milk sold in Australia.
“What’s that cost shoppers? The average milk consumption is 100L per person, per year,” he said.
“That would make milk $10 a litre more expensive per person, per year.
“That will save an Aussie farm from foreign investors buying it. It would stop farms going to the wall and the wellbeing of farmers around Australia being harmed.
“We’re not asking for a fortune.”
The New Daily contacted Woolworths for comment but did not receive a response.
Which dairy to buy and what it costs
While national advocacy group Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) told The New Daily it had not released a list of officially endorsed milk brands, it did accept buying branded milk was one way to help struggling farmers.
An ADF spokesperson said: “There needs to be a better balance between retailers, processors and farmers.”
The spokesperson did not support a milk levy nor did they officially affiliate the ADF with protests against Murray Goulburn, Fonterra, Coles and Woolworths on Wednesday.
Below are some of the dairy brands you need to buy to support Australian farmers.
– with ABC