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Farmer halts milk tanker

Dairy farmer Phil Hodgens refuses to sell milk at a loss.
Dairy farmer Phil Hodgens refuses to sell milk at a loss. Jason Dougherty

A MALENY dairy farmer facing ruin because of the milk price war has taken the extraordinary step of blocking milk tankers from accessing his property.

Phil Hodgens has refused to supply milk to dairy and milk giant Parmalat – producer of the popular Pauls brand – after his price was cut by almost 20%.

Mr Hodgens, 39, whose family has owned the small farm for about 80 years, set up the blockade on Friday and is now supplying milk to small processor Maleny Dairies at a much better price.

A tanker is due to arrive at his farm this morning, but he has already contacted the contracted tanker operator to let it know his property is a no-go zone.

“I could either borrow money to continue running at a loss or quit, Mr Hodgens said.

“I was backed into a corner, with the only choices being to die slowly or put myself out of my misery.”

It is understood Mr Hodgens is the first Sunshine Coast dairy farmer to take such a drastic action in the face of lower prices and spiralling costs.

He said Parmalat paid him 55 cents a litre in 2010, with the price dropping to 45 cents litre when he signed a new contract in January.

That was the same month that Coles and Woolworths slashed the price of their one-litre home brand milk to $1.

Mr Hodgens said he knew he would be getting a lower price for his milk before signing the new contract, but was left with no alternative when he failed to find a new processor.

Despite the lower price, he thought he could survive but was now losing between $2000 and $3000 a month.

Maleny Dairies is paying him 58 cents a litre – a figure that allows him to “make a living”.

Maleny Dairies operator Ross Hopper said he had a waiting list of farmers who would sign with him once their current contracts expired.

“I’m not going to run down another business to build mine up but when you think about the farmers and how they’re being treated, it’s pretty ordinary all round and that’s why we’ve got farmers knocking on our door,” he said


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