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TAS Country : April 7th 2011
6 Tasmanian Country Friday, April 8, 2011 Opinion LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Michael Luscombe hands over the Woolworths reins to Tasmanian Grant O'Brien. Woolies chief homegrown hope for Tassie TFGA matters with Jan Davis lw0THE news that a Tasmanian is to be the new managing director of Woolworths introduces, hopefully, a new element and a new ally in Tasmanian farmers' battles with the major supermarket chains. Penguin's Grant O'Brien, we are told, has come from humble beginnings as a shelf stacker in Woolies' Purity supermarkets here. Under the guidance of the fiercely Tasmanian Michael Kent, he has worked his way up the organisation until being appointed top dog to replace Michael Luscombe when he retires in October. Woolworths likes to paint itself as the unwilling bride in the supermarket war with Coles over milk and other staple prices, prices that Mr Luscombe himself has said are unsustainable. At a recent Sustainable Agriculture Initiative conference in Canberra, he warned that rising friction between farmers and supermarkets was having the effect of stalling on-farm innovation, which in turn could erode investment confidence in food processing and consumer confidence in Australian food markets; all this at a time when we are supposed to be looking at maximising our output to meet the anticipated spike in global population and demand for food. ''As soon as you reach a stage where a part of the chain becomes unprofitable, it becomes unsustainable and potentially the whole chain breaks down,'' he said. ''In the case of milk, margin erosion will jeopardise innovation and investment in new processing facilities and therefore potentially set back the sustainability of the sector over the long term.'' So remind me again why you are selling our milk for $1 a litre? That is not a strategy that is destined to deliver the ''robust and sustainable suppliers who are motivated, innovative and eager to deliver'' to which he referred at the conference. This strategy of marching in fixed step with Coles smacks of Tweedledum and Tweedledee. I am hoping that Mr O'Brien may take time to listen to the dairy farmers of his native Riana, Natone, Kindred and Barrington to determine what the long-term impact of this war, fought with unsustainable prices, is going to have. The TFGA has said loud and long that there is an inevitable result to all this: Tasmanian dairy farmers will get it in the neck in terms of their milk price. They are already working all hours, seven days a week, to try to make enough to keep their farms and their kids at school. And it doesn't stop there. Egg producers are about to see the same discounting of their products, supermarkets have given the heads- up that bread is on their hit list, and fruit and vegetable prices at retail checkout bear no resemblance to returns on-farm. The TFGA is engaged on an analysis of real food prices in the past six years or so. Already it is clear that, where there have been price increases, the extra returns rarely end up in the pockets of the farmer: they disappear into the pockets of others in the supply chain -- like wholesalers and supermarkets. Woolworths recently commissioned an independent study to analyse the impacts on food supply sustainability in Australia. 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A range of topics will be covered to give you the best information possible. • Mastitis Dr Jamie McNeil (Gippsland Vet) • Lameness Smithton Veterinary Ser vices • Bull Selection & Fertility Aust Dairy Herd Information Scheme • Calf Management Dr Jamie McNeil • Local farm issues Regional Vets • Successful mastitis control program case study with Pfizer and Phil & Lis Beattie 10am to 3pm; Lunch is provided RSVP to DairyTas by Friday April 15th on 6432 2233 or email@example.com These days are supported by Dairy Australia, TIAR Dairy Centre and the Commonwealth Bank
March 31st 2011
April 14th 2011