Crossley dairy farmers Karinjeet Singh-Mahil and Brian Schuler drove a tractor into Warrnambool on Monday to protest outside the first of Fonterra’s supplier meetings.
Fonterra’s managing director Rene Dedoncker, milk supply manager Matt Watt and Bonlac Supply Company (BSC) board chairman Tony Marwood are touring the south-west to explain the company’s forecast full year farm gate milk price range of $5.30 to $5.70 a kilogram/milk solids (kg/MS) for the coming milk season.
The company has also offered an additional payment of 40c a kg/MS, payable in 2017/2018 in response to anger over the clawback of money it took from suppliers after milk prices crashed last year.
However the 40c a kg/MS is not payable to farmers who paid the clawback but later stopped supplying Fonterra.
Ms Singh-Mahil said she believed Fonterra should pay back everything it owed to farmers.
“They should pay back everything they took from farmers in financial year 2015-16 – some farmers lost over $1 a kilogram and we lost a great deal more than 40 cents,” Ms Singh-Mahil said
“We all supplied them until the end of June, that is a complete season, they need to pay us back.”
She said Fonterra had taken farmers’ money and was trying to use it “to entice people into their clutches”.
Ms Singh-Mahil said while she was no longer supplying Fonterra, she had been contacted by disadvantaged farmers who had urged her, and Brian, to keep the pressure up on Fonterra.
She urged members of the public to sign her petition, calling on Fonterra to pay back the money, and boycott the company’s products.
But Mr Watt ruled out repayment of former suppliers, saying Fonterra felt its decision was “the right thing to do.”
“Farmers can see this is a way forward, they can budget around a number, they can see the additional 40 cents provides them additional funds to respond and increase production,” he said.
“The first thing this is about is making sure we have a sustainable future – our first priority is to existing farmers and those who want to come back,” Mr Watt said.