Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Coles to Back Off Due to Farm Lobby Pressure

Coles retreats at bush boycott

COLES is expected today to deliver farmers their first victory in their battle with the supermarket giants, pulling from sale shopping bags supporting Animals Australia.

Angry beef and fat lamb producers yesterday called for a mass boycott of Coles supermarkets because of their partnership with the animal rights group, saying the retail giant was deeply "anti-farming".

A spokesman for Wesfarmers -- Coles's parent company -- said last night it had taken notice of the "deep and genuine" level of interest in the issue from both sides of the debate.

Wesfarmers is expected to announce this morning it is withdrawing all bags from sale.

The spokesperson would not confirm the move, but said the company had great regard for its roots as a farmer-owned co-operative and wanted to avoid "further polarisation" of its stakeholders.

The National Farmers Federation had called on Coles and Wesfarmers, to reconsider their partnership with the animal rights group and to stop selling the shopping bags.

It is the first time the peak lobby group has so stridently attacked Coles -- which last year sponsored the NFF annual congress in Canberra -- accusing it of endorsing a "radical" organisation that wanted to shut down farms and rural jobs.

Coles and competitor Woolworths have also been at the centre of a growing row with struggling dairy farmers over the damage caused by continued sales of cheap $1-a-litre milk.

Sheep producers who supply Coles with thousands of lambs a year yesterday announced a blackban on sales to the chain. The moves follow outrage within farming circles at the decision to sell the Animals Australia bags at 500 of its stores this month.

Queensland cattleman Stuart Ogg said he was appalled at Coles's misjudgment and would make sure none of his Brahman-cross cattle ended up as prime beef steaks in its stores.  "Coles always seem to be looking for a point of difference or a cheap publicity stunt and don't care who they hurt in the process," the Carnarvon Gorge grazier said. "We have a very solid and sustainable industry; Coles siding with Animals Australia is a slap in the face for industry -- it's like them saying they don't think we are producing our meat properly."

One of NSW's biggest prime-lamb producers, Andrew Freshwater, announced he would be halting the supply of thousands of lambs a year to Coles until it reversed its stance.

Mr Freshwater said five other suppliers -- all the major producers in the eastern states -- were backing his stance, while other farmers intended to stop buying fertiliser and insurance from Wesfarmers. "I've had a gutful; (it's time) to make Coles sit up and take notice," he said.

Coles yesterday began selling more than 15,000 of the bags at checkouts in its metropolitan supermarkets, with 30c from each $1 sale going towards Animals Australia's campaigns.

NFF chief executive Matt Linnegar said Coles could not have it both ways -- it could not claim to be the best friend of farmers and a strong supporter of homegrown produce while supporting Animals Australia and its extremist anti-farming campaigns.

Animals Australia campaign director Lyn White yesterday wrote to supporters calling for them to write, email or tweet Coles affirming their support for the campaign and the anti-factory farming bag sales.

Copyright acknowledged  - The Australian newspaper. Reprinted in its full online version.

Probably a good outcome - if true.  But this is but a battle - the war is still on!

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