Dairy farmers have vented their anger over the demise of dairy processor Murray Goulburn, with some saying it sounds a death knell for the dairy industry.
At a packed Murray Goulburn annual general meeting on Friday, dairy farmers whose families have supplied Murray Goulburn for decades lamented the agreement to sell the dairy co-operative to Canadian dairy giant Saputo for $1.3 billion.
Over two-and-a-half hours, dairy farmers mostly blasted the board, claiming Murray Goulburn had been poorly managed, had not done enough to save the co-op, had not communicated properly and had capitulated to Saputo when other suitors might have been better.
One Murray Goulburn shareholder and supplier said his family had been supplying milk to Murray Goulburn for 40 years but overseas experience showed that as dairy co-operatives collapsed, so too did the industry.
«I really see this as the death knell of our industry,» he said.
Another farmer thanked the «old» board for «stuffing up a truly magnificent Australian company», which prompted chairman John Spark to ask that his comments be respectful.
«That was respectful,» the man replied.
Another attendee said the board should have consulted dairy farmers before agreeing to sell to Saputo, accusing the directors of treating people»like sheep» and giving away three generations of suppliers.
Some farmers, however, accepted the outcome and praised the board for trying to find a solution to the co-operative’s problems.
«I feel too tired now to fight on to save a name, unfortunately,» said another 40-year veteran.
Craig Dywer, one of several farmer directors on the Murray Goulburn board, said he never thought that Murray Goulburn would be sold and that its problems could be fixed.
«However reality has prevailed and forced our hand,» Mr Dwyer said.
Mr Dwyer said the board had considered all options, including remaining as a-stand-alone entity, and equity partnership and a full share sale.
«Believe me when I say that no stone has been left unturned by the board and management in exhausting all avenues before arriving at this agreement,» he said.
Murray Goulburn chief executive Ari Mervis said Murray Goulburn simply could not go in in its present form given its high debt, declining milk supplies and inability to match the «aggressive» farmgate milk price on offer from other dairy processors.
Murray Goulburn’s milk supplies have fallen dramatically since the co-operative shocked the industry in April 2016 with a surprise cut to the price it pays farmers for their milk.
The price cut prompted some dairy farmers to quit supplying Murray Goulburn or retire altogether from the sector.
At one stage during Friday’s meeting meeting, the lights in the room temporarily went out.
«We’re well and truly in the dark now,» chairman John Spark said.