ANGRY dairy farmers in Victoria and Tasmania are leaving milk processing giant Murray Goulburn in droves, saddling the struggling company with less milk to process, looming factory closures and a $183 million “overpayment” burden to claw back from its fewer remaining producers.
The Australian reports the farm revolt has accelerated during the past month as rival dairy processors paying more for milk have found room in their factories for milk from some of Victoria’s biggest and best farmers.
About 200 of Murray Goulburn’s farmers quickly left the co-operative after it crashed its milk price in April by a shock and retrospective 15 per cent, taking 270 million litres, equal to 7 per cent of its annual milk supply, with them.
Murray Goulburn’s losses have haemorrhaged since last month to an estimated 350 million litres as large, financially healthy and long-term dairy businesses have turned to supply competitors such as Bega Cheese.
The lack of trust once-loyal farmers now have in their former co-operative, which partially listed on the stock exchange last year, has forced Murray Goulburn to resort to tough tactics against rival dairy processors and even its farmers to slow the exodus.
One large Victorian farmer, David Christie, whose family had been with Murray Goulburn since its formation in the 1950s, switched the four million litres of milk produced on his Rochester farm in northern Victoria to Bega’s nearby Tatura plant last week, despite having to refund forward incentive payments to Murray Goulburn.