170 people met to discuss the future of Warrnambool Cheese and Butter last night, which is now one of the last remaining Australian-controlled dairy processors.
Tyran Jones, Vice President of the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria led the discussion, highlighting the body’s position on an Australian-owned dairy industry, The Weekly Times Now Reports.
Jones said that the current battle for ownership of WCB was about three iconic and successful dairy companies that came from co-operative backgrounds.
The debate as to whether Warrnambool should stay in Australian hands has stepped up in the last few weeks as the Canadian dairy processor, Saputo has raised the stakes each time one of the other suitors, Bega and Murray Goulburn have made an offer. As it stands Warrnambool’s board is recommending that shareholders accept Saputo’s offer in absence of a superior proposal.
Victorian Agriculture and Food Security Minister, Peter Walsh last week said that sale of Warrnambool to foreign businesses could represent a ‘lost opportunity’ for the Australian dairy industry.
President of the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria, Kerry Callow told The Weekly Times yesterday that body wants to hear what path dairy farmers want the industry to take.
"I have stated before and I will say it again, the UDV believes in building a profitable export sector where our dairy farmers are the direct beneficiaries of industry growth and performance,” said Callow. “Ultimately we can only maximise these benefits if we, as farmers, have a say and own a share of the dairy processing sector."
Callow said the Australian dairy industry is at a ‘crossroads’ with one path leading to foreign ownership and the other potentially leading to a strong presence in the global arena.
"We are at a crossroads. One road will see yet another of our key dairy processors fall under foreign control – if Canadian diary giant Saputo takes ownership of Warrnambool Cheese and Butter. The other road could see Australia move towards becoming a global player in the international dairy export market," Ms Callow said.
"Australian farmer ownership of our processing assets ensures we have a globally competitive and profitable industry that puts Australian dairy farmers' interests and livelihoods front and centre.
"It seems that in most dairy farmers' minds there are two important principles at stake; the need for competition at the farm gate and the need to position the Australian industry as a major player on the global market.
"It is perhaps not unexpected that there are differing views across the industry on the direction we should take. But the UDV wants to ensure everyone gets their chance to understand and have a say on what path we take.