Supermarkets cop blast

By Country News

Supermarket giants that introduced a milk levy to support drought-affected farmers have been criticised for the ‘‘half-baked’’ plan by Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud.

The minister said Coles and Woolworths failed to follow through with the original idea of a 10¢/litre levy on all milk brands that would be paid to processors that supply supermarkets.

He took particular aim at Coles, saying the supermarket was forced to take part in the scheme when rival Woolworths signed up.

Mr Littleproud said Coles was being either lazy or slippery through its ‘‘empty media stunt’’.

‘‘The result is a half-baked policy which only applies to Coles’ three-litre variety of their own milk brand — and may not even go back to the farmers who supply that tiny portion of drinking milk,’’ Mr Littleproud said.

But Coles hit back at the comments.

‘‘It is disappointing that the minister has chosen to criticise Coles — which has already committed over $12million for drought relief — before becoming familiar with the facts,’’ a spokesman said.

The company also appointed PwC as an independent auditor to oversee the application administration process and verify funds have been allocated to the farmers as promised, according to the spokesman.

The agriculture minister saved his most scathing remarks for German supermarket giant Aldi.

‘‘They’ve done bugger all, they’ve done nothing, they won’t ever come to the party and help the dairy industry,’’ Mr Littleproud told the ABC on Monday morning.

‘‘Aldi basically just turned around and said ‘go and jam it’. Well, you know what, we should say to the big German, ‘you go and jam it’.

‘‘The reality is they’re not interested in the dairy industry here in Australia. They’ve done nothing, they’ve done bugger all, and it’s time the Australian consumer looked at Aldi and what they’ve done.’’

Woolworths was only applying the levy to its own brand $1/litre milk and Aldi had refused to consider a levy at all, he said.

Last month dairy farmers called for a 10¢/litre levy on all milk sales to help farmers battling drought.

Woolworths and Aldi have yet to respond to the comments.