I attended a discussion at which the “plight” of dairy farmers was highlighted (the lead-in was based on this article). No doubt times are tough for them: drought, world prices and water-trading were singled out. Yet consumers are buying milk for $1/litre, and at least one of the processors is making good profits (Fonterra). But there are also Murray Goulburn’s issues (centreing on the partial listing on the ASX).
I raised the topic of $1 supermarket milk, expecting that the evident sympathy for the farmers would evoke a hostile reaction. Somewhat to my surprise, the response was along the lines that although there is an issue about the imbalance in market power between the farmers and the supermarkets (where have all the co-operatives gone?), this didn’t translate into automatic opposition to $1 milk. I guess this pricing is seen as a symptom, not a cause.
In fact, Choice back in June acknowledged that “…while the sentiment behind consumers switching to branded drinking milk to support dairy farmers might be appreciated, this action won’t automatically result in farmers receiving higher premiums”. Just the same they suggested that we should to buy branded milk (“if your budget allows”). However, there seems to have been a slight change in their emphasis since then and the article that appeared in the September issue of their hard copy magazine (also here) took a subtly different approach. It was acknowledged that “it isn’t drinking milk at the root of the crisis”, and that “when it comes to this latest crisis, $1 milk isn’t actually a major cause”. Specifically, “if you’re concerned about supporting farmers, boycotting supermarket brand milk probably isn’t the way to go about it”.
So, yes, in our house we’re going to continue buying supermarket branded milk.