Serving it back to Coles

Serving it back to Coles


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CHARLES Sturt University veterinary student Cassandra MacDonald is serving up some home truths to supermarket giant Coles in a self-drawn infographic reply to the retailer's slick claims about milk prices.

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CHARLES Sturt University veterinary student Cassandra MacDonald is serving up some home truths to supermarket giant Coles in a self-drawn infographic reply to the retailer's slick claims about milk prices.

Coles used a snappy infographic to support its controversial claim that its savage milk discounting to $1 a litre was not degrading farmgate milk returns or driving farmers out of the industry.

Ms MacDonald saw the Coles video on FarmOnline and felt so angry about the misrepresentations it presented she decided to put her own drawing skills to the test, compiling an argument to counter the big retailer's marketing spin.

A former high school art student from Hurlstone Agricultural High School, she compressed five hours of her cartoon-style drawing efforts into a five and a half minute message posted on YouTube two days ago.

Within hours the frank, self-narrated message to Coles and its shoppers on behalf of frustrated dairy farmers was a huge hit.

By Friday morning it had attracted about 5000 views.

"I've always wanted to speak up and do something to let people know what's really happening to dairy farmers, but writing a letter to Coles wouldn't make much impact," she said.

"I hope this makes Coles realise that there are people out there ready to fight back against their sneaky spin," she said.

"They will have to think harder to try and justify their moves, because if they lie or warp the truth again, I will be more than happy to come back at them again."

Coles has continually argued it can't be held responsible for farmer's unsustainable returns because little of Australia's total milk volume goes into its cheap house-branded bottles.

It said the real problem facing struggling dairy farmers was the high Australian dollar and tough overseas dairy export markets which set the price for most of Australia's milk production.

Management has even pointed to examples of the retailer paying extra to processors and being willing to adapt its payments to match upward movements in global prices.

But Ms MacDonald's video clearly shows how cheap private label or house brand milk sold under retailers' own generic brands has undermined sales of proprietary branded milk, reduced shelf space for traditional brands and left processors struggling to make a profit or pay farmers fairly to cover their huge production costs.

The impact is felt particularly hard in NSW, Queensland and Western Australia where most milk is produced year-round for the fresh drinking market and there are no export alternatives for it.

Declining production on NSW and Queensland farms is also being topped up by cheap milk trucked in from Victoria (where production costs are generally lower) and there is a ready surplus available, particularly if export prices are down.

A similar milk discount war in Britain is also leaving farmers there paid well below their costs of production as retailers use fierce discount strategies to lure shoppers into their stores.

Ms MacDonald, 24, who grew up at Albion Park Rail and in the Snowy Mountains, works part-time at Craig Cowell's Wagga Wagga dairy farm while studying at the nearby CSU campus.

While at school she showed Ayrshire cattle for the Hurlstone stud and for Berry district farmers, Paul and Vicki Timbs and represented Wagga in the Sydney Royal Showgirl competition finals in 2011.

She finishes her vet course later this year, hoping to work in a large animal veterinary practice, preferably with plenty of cattle work.

Her infographic response to Coles was filmed on her lounge room floor with her iPad.

"The response has been unbelievable, but it's exactly what I wanted," she said.

"I wanted the message to reach as many people as it can.

"I hope consumers will stop and think about what exactly is happening.

"I hope they think about the choices they make if they buy supermarket milk, and how it affects others.

"Ultimately it would be great if more people boycotted generic brands and bought branded milk products instead so we can really combat the problem.

"I also want shoppers to think about the information they are being fed, especially by such big powerful companies."

View Coles' original infographic here:

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