Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

It's Lent

There's the old joke. You know the one. Newlywed gets a knock back from her partner and asks "Why?
The answer comes back. "It's Lent".
Newlywed wails "To whom and for how long?"

You have to be a Mick to appreciate it.

On a more serious (and timely) note, see below -  

A thought for Justice in Lent

In almost every town and village that this paper gets delivered to there once was a butter factory, a cheese factory, a dairy co-operative. The cheese in my childhood fridge had local names on the wrapping -
Pittsworth, Warwick, Toowoomba etc. When we visited relatives we would drive to the local factory to pick up a large block of cheese. When I made my home in this city the milk was delivered to our door three days a week. This is not ancient history but for the dairy industry those days have long gone.

$1 for a litre of milk seems like a good price in anybody's language - but there are hidden costs in this
that many of us queuing at our local supermarket may never see. 

Of course I refer to the recent Milk Wars - where the two major supermarket chains Woolworths and Coles are dueling to see who can get the most customers through their doors with the lure of dollar a litre milk. Of course it is good news for customers in the short term- but in the process could kill off local farms, communities and a large chunk of the dairy industry. 

If people stop buying branded milk the supermarket duopoly can dictate prices driving many farmers to the wall. More than half of all fresh milk now sold in Australia is a supermarket brand. I dipped my toes in the water, or should that be milk of the milk wars a few years ago. This was in the wake of de-regulation when the Supermarkets were muscling in with their own no name brands.

I spent a few nights in freezing community hall meetings where locals spoke of blockades and wholesale boycotts, I spoke with one farmer who told me his company was looking after him - but it was tothers who were the baddies. I learnt that between 45 and 60 percent ofthe milk produced across this country can be used for export - while 90 percent of milk produced in Queensland stays here. I learnt that small scale operators can be better for the environment compared to huge dairy agri-business, I voted with my wallet and ensured that all milk consumed in our house was a branded version which gave a better deal to the producers. I continue to do this and would urge others to do the same. But the fight as a consumer is not an easy one. 

The coffee and tea that I consume is also fair trade where the producers receive a fair price for my daily cuppa. When I select chocolate I search for the fair trade logo again ensuring that child labour has not been used to support my sweet tooth and that cocoa farmers can look after their families. It's a growing movement that we can all be a part of as consumers but it is still not enough. It might assuage my middle class guilt - but it is a bit rough demanding that an aged pensioner spend a few more of their precious dollars at the supermarket fridge buying the name brands. We need to act with integrity as consumers but we also need systems in place that ensure that whole industries and communities are not burnt on the altar of free trade. 

We need a system of fair trade where the big boys in the supermarket game do not call all the shots. It is an easy PR stunt for the supermarket chains to offer to give part of the milk price to support dairy farmers affected by recent floods. It would have more integrity if they ensured a decent farm gate price for milk producers. In Britain today almost all milk sold is supermarket brand with farmers claiming it is sold below the price of production. So if you can afford it give the supermarkets a miss when it comes to purchasing your milk. It might take a little longer but it is nothing compared with the inconvenience the current milk war is causing Queensland dairy farmers. We may never get back the local cheese factory or butter board but surely there must be a way that we can continue to drink fresh milk without breaking a local industry.

By Mark Copland printed in the Chronicle 

Dr Mark Copland is the Executive Officer of the Toowoomba Diocese Social Justice Commission.

You can make a difference by boycotting monopoly milk brands in the supermarkets. Keep our dairy industry alive and keep jobs local.

1 comment:

cav said...

The writing is on the wall.

The big chains have the power and the money.

How many LOCAL service stations have now closed because Coles and Woolworths were selling petrol at the price lower than the local service station owner could buy it.

How many drivers still queue at Coles and Woolworths petrol outlets to get 4 cents off a litre? All to save enough money that won't even get a decent cup of coffee.

How many govt. enquiries have their been into petrol pricing? What has changed? Nothing.

I fail to understand this basic premise: How do petrol stations all change their prices to the exact same amount at the same time each day?

But back to milk. Maybe the govt. should introduce MILKWATCH!

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