COLES merchandise director John Durkan faced the fury of dairy farmers at the WAFarmers annual dairy conference in Busselton yesterday.
Despite assurances Coles wanted the industry to remain sustainable and had cut its profit margins on milk, farmers generally remained cynical.
Federal Member for Forrest, Nola Marino said Coles' decision to reduce home-brand milk to $1 a litre had devalued milk and agriculture in the eyes of the consumer.
Coles was also accused of reducing the incentive to continue farming when returns, excluding capital depreciation, could be as low as 1.4 per cent in a good year and probably lower in the next 12 months.
Coles' assertion the consumer had seen greater value in milk as there had been an increase in milk consumption, was met with disbelief and laughter.
Farmers said if processors were pushed to lower their tender prices to win the supermarket contracts, they had no recourse but to lower the price paid to suppliers who in turn had no recourse but to accept it. More from the WAFarmers dairy conference in next week's Farm Weekly.