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Supermarket Coles begins hand-out of drought money levied on cheap milk

Warwick Long, Monday January 21, 2019 - 15:53 EDT
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Coles will start giving money collected from levies to dairy farmers this week. - ABC

Supermarket giant Coles is going to start handing out the money it collected from a levy on milk it sold to customers.

The raised $3.97 million which, from Monday, would be shared among 639 farmers at an average of $6,219.55 per farmer.

Coles' senior communications manager, Martine Alpins, said farmers could use the funds in a number of ways.

"This money will provide critical financial support, feed and water, costs for their cattle, farm improvements, household expenses," she said.

Ms Alpins confirmed that funds collected from consumers, including interest, was audited by Price Waterhouse Coopers to make sure all money raised would end up with farmers.

Retailers could do more

United Dairyfarmers of Victoria president Paul Mumford is happy with some funds but said it would not do much for farmers.

"It only equates to only half a load of fodder at today's prices," he said.

He added that .

"It's good to highlight the plight of dairy farmers at the consumer level but if retailers are truly serious about helping farmers, they should stop using dollar-per-litre milk, stop discounting dairy, and pay a fair price to farmers," Mr Mumford said.

While $6,200 is not a lot of money for a dairy farming business, farmers like John Ryan from Denison in Victoria's Gippsland region, are happy to receive the funds.

"We milk 300 cows and I opened the email this morning and saw that we got this money," he said.

"Firstly, I'd like to say thank-you to those who contributed.

"It's not a great amount — our extra feed or water costs this year got to $200,000 — but we really appreciate if people consciously bought that product to support us."

Drought ongoing but Coles stops collecting funds

The money was raised with the levy on Coles milk in three-litre containers between September 21 and December 31, 2018.

Despite the drought continuing, the drought collection by Coles is not.

"The [drought] is definitely not broken [but] we had to put an end date [on this program] to ensure we had the final amount as quickly as possible," Ms Alpins said.

The supermarket chain ruled out a program where it would continuously collect funds and hand out money at the end of each month.

Woolworths still collecting

After the Coles announcement, supermarket rival Woolworths provided an update on its milk levy fund for farmers.

In a statement, Woolworths director Paul Harker said their drought relief milk had now provided $4.5 million to 285 farmers.

"The drought is far from over and neither is our drought relief milk effort," he said, adding that they were continuing to collect funds for drought relief.


© ABC 2019

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