Under the deal, which still needs Foreign Investment Review Board approval, Mengniu will acquire big-name Australian dairy and juice brands including Dairy Farmers, Big M, Pura, Daily Juice and Berri , the sale also includes Malanda Milk.
The Dairy Farmers Co-operative Milk Co. was formed on January 15, 1900, It was then sold to Japanese company Kirin in 2008, becoming a brand of National Foods, ending 108 years as a co-operative company.
After Kirin Holdings acquired the alcoholic beverage company, Lion Nathan, in 2009, National Foods & Lion Nathan merged to become “Lion Nathan National Foods”. Lion Nathan National Foods later became Lion Dairy & Drinks.
The proposed Mengniu/Lion deal was announced in November, shortly after Treasurer Josh Frydenberg gave conditional approval to Mengniu to buy Australian infant formula company.
Director of the Dairy Farmers Milk co-op and Milla Milla Dairy Farmer James Geraghty has said: “some people may be upset that another Australian asset has been sold to overseas interests, but Dairy Farmers has not been in Australian hands for some time.”
“Really, if we had a choice between a Japanese brewer who doesn’t want to be here and a Chinese milk company who wants to be here, we’ll take the Chinese,” he said.
Mr Geraghty is hoping that the new owners will play hardball with Coles and Woolworths “Australians are going to have to pay more for milk, or there won’t be any”.
Even though it will change from one set of overseas hands to another, Member for Hill, Shane Knuth said “he has always been a strong supporter of Australian ownership and that sadly relying on a foreign company reveals what little effort our governments have played to protect the dairy industry.”
“I believe in the old co-op system with dairy farmer ownerships, I am very disappointed with consecutive governments. Time and time again despite the desperate situation they’ve rejected everything that has been put forward by the dairy farmers to help – from a minimum price scheme to the fair milk logo legislation and reining in on the supermarket giants,” Mr Knuth said.