Coles Farmers’ Fund is anything but a fund for farmers by farmers


The Coles Farmers’ Fund is perfect material for a stand-up comedian really.

Step 1. Using your massive market power, you send the price of milk down, down, down and dismiss the pleadings of farmers as ignorance.

Step 2. Next, you secure a 10-year deal with MG to source cheap milk while saying it’s a great deal for farmers.

Step 3. When history brings MG’s credibility to its knees and farmers down with it, consumers fall out of love with cheap milk and Coles. So what do you do?:

a) respond by restoring the price of milk to sustainable levels; OR
b) maintain the discount on milk and begin a “Down, down…” campaign targeting cheese as well; OR
c) come up with a farmer-endorsed PR stunt that costs you nothing but wins you back sales lost to branded products?

Well, bless you Coles. Presented with the easy option of permanently fixing the problem you created with solution a) you’ve instead gone with a devilish combination of b) and c).

Call me an ungrateful, whingeing farmer but…
I think I have cause for concern. The Coles Farmers’ Fund has been designed by Coles marketing executives for Coles, not farmers:

  • The cheap milk has brought the value of all milk down (check the numbers for yourself in my previous post) and no more milk is sold today than before Coles drove the price down. This Farmers’ Fund will do nothing to address the cause of the problem.
  • Only a few farmers will be awarded any funding – not the thousands who need a fair price.
  • The fund only applies to farm improvements and, this year, most farmers are in survival mode – money is needed to pay the basic bills. Farmers simply need to be paid a proper price for their milk.
  • A group of unnamed VFF people will decide who receives the funds. Transparency and accountability is sorely lacking.
  • Only the consumers who care about farmers will buy this milk, so it’s likely to further damage branded milk sales, redirecting sales straight back to Coles.

Contempt for dairy leaders
And it didn’t even matter that the peak dairy bodies were apparently opposed to the stunt: Coles simply gazumped the United Dairy Farmers of Victoria and Australian Dairy Farmers by garnering endorsement by the VFF. A stunning coup for Coles. A sickening own goal by the VFF.

Call me an ungrateful, whingeing hypocrite of a farmer but…
After first deciding against applying to the Farmers’ Fund, I changed my mind.

Fellow farmer Dianne Bowles argued convincingly that as many farmers as possible should apply, demonstrating the need for support and the value that even small change for a supermarket can have on farm. So there, it’s done.

This may have been a very expensive blog post for me and my family but one I simply had to write. If I get funding, I’ll be quick to let you know.

UPDATE 26/10/16: I was astonished to receive a preliminary email today advising that our farm has been successful with its application. If you haven’t already submitted an application, I highly recommend you do for the next round. Thank you to the VFF committee for approving our project.

14 thoughts on “Coles Farmers’ Fund is anything but a fund for farmers by farmers

  1. Dear maid Marion. You forgot to mention the final Coles finesse. They have increased their 2 litre price to $2.50 and they give the farmers $0.40, so that’s an extra $0.10 (five cents per litre) profit to Cole’s. Not sure how many litres Coles sells, but the 5c/litre would probably mean $5M profit or much more


  2. I was talking to an old mate today who runs a very successful retail business here in Cobram, I was telling him about the Murray Goulburn fiasco at their factory here in Cobram, he was dumbfounded, he then told me about a lady customer who was in last week, she is a dairy farmer from Blighty NSW and a MG supplier, since the disgusting MG price announcement earlier this year her husband has had a stroke and she has had a mental breakdown, this is the extremely shocking human cost of their disgusting decisions.


  3. As I have said before no one should shop at Coles for anything their Tesco execs did the same thing in England they have gone from exporters to importers as they destroyed that industry


  4. I totally agree with what you said. As soon as the fund was announced, I cold see the garbage they were spewing. Coles looks after itself first. I continue to go out of my way to buy branded milk from small companies. I don’t know if it will make a difference, but I hope in some small way it does.


  5. Lets not forget that MG are the one’s supplying the said milk to Coles and are in the deal with the VFF. Yes, is this one of those mates helping mates be seen to be doing something when in actual fact it is really not helping anyone!! Let’s just get the class action happening and get a court ruling that claw backs are a no, no and by the way MG use that insurance you have and pay back the money you have taken from the farmers. Me thinks it is about time to find a better representative body for farmers and in particular dairy farmers!!


  6. Unity cohesion and a willingness to work together that’s what what the Australian dairy industry is renowned for . You would have better luck herding cats . dream on


  7. This is a case of a ” do nothing ” government
    What the government should’ve done a long time ago was limit the market share of a single company but how can a government do this when they are beholden by their “donators”
    Big Box retailers are a scourge in Australia The biggest company wins because the bigger you are the better buying power you have
    Simply it destroys your opposition it’s predatory behaviour along with ganging up against your opposition with other huge companies like petrol companies and airline companies
    Come on ACCC where are your teeth?


  8. I hear you Marion
    But as a consumer who ends up in the big two more often than I’d like i just dont know which milk to buy i avoid there own brands but if i just want milk ptroduced in victoria what brands do i look for off the top of my head there is pura but are there other options?


    • Hi Ian,
      Thanks for asking and I really appreciate your support – shoppers who care mean a lot more than the economic dries appreciate.
      I’m grateful for you buying any branded milk because properly priced milk helps us all.


  9. Yeah I thought it was a stunt by Coles trying to look good. I refuse to buy that or Coles milk and have now boycotted Coles fullstop. I went in one of their shops the other day and the shelves were full of Coles milk I could barely find any branded milk do I had to walk out. I’m distigusted farmers can’t get paid a fair price for milk. Have nothing to do with any farmers, I just love my milk. So sorry for all the farmers doing it so tough.


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