THE fallout from Fonterra Australia’s secret milk contracts with northern Victoria suppliers has exploded, with a farmer representative being forced to take personal leave and another quitting the company’s forum group.
On top of that, a complaint has been made to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission about the equity of the milk contracts.
The Weekly Times understands northern Victoria dairy farmer Simone Ross was told by Bonlac Supply Company chairman John Dalton to take personal leave for at least two months, after she questioned the secrecy of the North Fresh milk contracts.
Forum members were told in a telephone conference call on January 11 about the contracts offering dairy farmers in northern Victoria an average farmgate milk price of $6.71 a kilogram of milk solids, as long as they met minimum supply commitments every month.
The contracts have angered Fonterra suppliers in the northern region unable to meet the minimum requirements and those in other regions who were left to accept the base farmgate milk price of $6.05/kg MS.
Tasmanian forum member Leigh Schuuring, who resigned from the forum last week over the handling of the contracts, said the farmer representatives were told not to talk to anyone about North Fresh.
Fonterra has disputed the contracts were secret.
Mr Dalton said he would not describe them as secret.
“It wasn’t widely advertised,” he said. “But you might say that is splitting hairs.”
The Weekly Times understands Ms Ross questioned why Fonterra was not more open about the North Fresh contracts until after they were made public in The Weekly Times on February 20.
Contacted by The Weekly Times, Ms Ross said she could not talk about the North Fresh contracts because she was instructed to take personal leave.
“But there are a lot of farmers angry about it,” she said.
“I have questioned at the way the package was delivered.”
Mr Schuuring said he believed that was why Ms Ross was told to take personal leave.
He said BSC was suggesting she had mental health issues but he was sure she did not.
“They don’t like the questions she was asking,” he said.
“This was an easy way to quieten her down.”
Mr Dalton would not be drawn on telling Ms Ross to take leave.
“I won’t discuss anyone’s personal issues in a public arena at all. Absolutely not,” he said.
Source: The Weekly Times