On January 26 2011, dairy farmers across Australia woke to news that changed the face of the industry.
In truly un-Australian fashion, the then Coles director of merchandise John Durkan and CEO Ian McLeod felt $1 a litre private label milk had a nice ring to it and decided to announce milk price cuts – on Australia Day.
Under the pretence that the price cut helped the average Australian shopper, the strategy was, in truth, designed to take market share from Woolworths and the up-and-coming new kids on the block, Aldi.
At the time, Coles was warned of the potential consequences to the dairy industry but insisted that keeping prices down for customers was more important. At the time they also argued that farmgate prices and price paid to processors were fair.
Fast forward to 2016 – the virtual collapse of Murray Goulburn due to mismanagement and the increased milk production in the EU, meant that the price paid back to farmers at the farmgate was significantly slashed.
And now here we are 2019 and our industry is still in crisis.
Australia Day should be cause for celebration. It is a timely reminder of the importance of mateship, fairness and the necessity to be as one in times of trouble.
We live in a land of highs and lows; of drought and flood. It has always been our perseverance and strength of character that has seen us through. Despite everything, most of us wouldn't want to live anywhere else.
We have seen the Australian spirit shine with the amount of public donations, business and community support right across the country to our farmers doing it tough in these drought conditions.
Even though the new head of Coles, Steven Cain, is another import from the UK, we ask that he embrace the Australian ethos and put an end to $1/litre milk.