Ex-organic farmer unhappy with about-face

Last updated 05:00 16/04/2013

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A reprieve for organic dairy farmers told by Fonterra almost two years ago that their milk was no longer wanted has come too late for Mike Long.

Fonterra is renewing contracts for some of its organic dairy farmers in the middle and lower North Island, following a turnaround in its niche organics business.

In August 2011, 68 suppliers were told their contracts would be allowed to run down.

One of those was Long and his wife Kathleen Hughes-Long, who milked 140 organic cows at Dannevirke and owned a second organic farm of 175 cows run by a sharemilker at Eketahuna.

"We were forced out by Fonterra when our contract ran out last year," Long said yesterday. "We asked if there was any likelihood Fonterra would look at taking organic milk again from down this way and we were told: No, never."

He said his reaction to yesterday's announcement was unprintable.

He had kept farming using organic principles but had let certification lapse and would now not bother to renew it.

Fonterra nutrition manager Sarah Kennedy said the co-operative had worked hard over the past 18 months to return its organics business to profitability.

It restructured the business to focus on markets in Asia, while also reducing costs.

"Our focus on Asia has paid off, with higher premiums for organic ingredients and increasing demand, mostly out of China.

"Based on this turnaround, we are now able to renew contracts for farmers in the middle and lower North Island who have contracts expiring this year."

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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