MILK distributor NORCO has been dumped as the primary milk supplier to north coast hospitals and replaced by foreign-owned company Dairy Farmers.
The decision by NSW Health’s procurement provider Healthshare toaward the contract to Dairy Farmers, based in Queensland,has outraged dairy farming suppliers between the northern border and the Port Macquarie-Hastings and Macleay regions.
Dairy Farmers is owned byKirin Holdings, operating out of Japan. The contract will supply milk to more than 16north coast health and medical facilities including Port Macquarie and Kempsey.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard reportedly saidNORCO’s bid for the contract, which equates to the supply of 300,000 litres of milk per annum, did not offer an economical price for taxpayers.
NORCO board chairman Greg McNamara said the company was not prepared to negotiate the price of their tenderat the expense of local farmers.
“We try to pay the best price to our farmers and we were not prepared to go in cheaply and undercut the contract because that has impacts down the line on them,” Mr McNamara explained.
NORCO represents 211 north coast dairy farmers, including those based in the Hastings and Macleay,employs 830 staff and hasfactories in both Raleigh and Labrador.
The company is fully farmer-owned and the last large dairy co-operative remaining in Australia with a local history spanning 110 years.
In the last financial year, the co-op received 222 million litres of milk from its suppliers.
NORCO board chairman Greg McNamaraBy turning its back on the local milk supplier, the state government has again shown that it has a tin ear to the needs and concerns of the local community.
HSU secretary Gerard Hayes
The Health Services Union (HSU) said the decision to shift the contract interstate to a foreign-owned company is a blow for local dairy farming communities.
HSU Secretary Gerard Hayes said the decision to abandon Norco was disappointing, as north coast health workers and hospital patients wanted to support their local economy.
“The dairy industry has played a huge role on the north coast for many years,” Mr Hayes said.
“By turning its back on the local milk supplier, the state government has again shown that it has a tin ear to the needs and concerns of the local community.
“We’ve even heard reports of patients refusing to drink the hospital milk unless it’s Norco.
“Health workers are calling on local National Party MPs to overturn this decision, and to make sure local milk is provided in hospitals and health facilities throughout the Northern Rivers and the north coast.”
The HSU has launched a petition to overturn the decision which will be presented to the state government. Supporters can sign it online here.
Port Macquarie News