A NORTHERN Star inquiry into exorbitant retail milk prices in some Northern Rivers’ supermarkets has resulted in an embarrassing about-face by Coles supermarkets yesterday.
Three of the retail giant’s stores in Lismore and Ballina raised the price of two-litre bottles of Norco Lite by almost a dollar to $4.37 last week, causing consternation for customers keen to support their local dairy company.
The same product was priced at $3.43 at all Northern Rivers Woolworths supermarkets.
The current price war between Coles and Woolworths has seen generic-branded milk, both full cream and light, slashed to a dollar a litre, making it increasingly difficult for consumers to support alternative and independent outlets.
This has outraged dairy farmers who have complained that the unsustainable pricing will reduce competition and ultimately drive farmers off their land.
The stoush forced the Federal Government to initiate a senate inquiry into predatory milk pricing last month and it is expected to report back to government later this month.
After repeated inquiries, a Coles media relations manager said yesterday that the price rise in northern NSW stores was a mistake and should not have occurred.
“It has been reviewed and will be changed,” the spokesman said.
“The Norco two-litre lite milk price will be put back to its original retail price (this) morning.”
Last month Norco representatives made a 45-minute submission to the inquiry revealing costs of production, processing and delivery.
Norco board chairperson Greg McNamara said that after drought and flood it had become a critical issue for dairy farmers.
In an interim report two weeks ago, inquiry chair Senator Alan Eggleston said the committee had received 151 submissions and had held public hearings in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra.
He said there were complex interactions between farmers, processors and retailers and the impact of the price reductions on the industry depended on how long they were kept in place.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.