Last week brought the long-awaited news of the sale of Lion Dairy and Drinks. Assuming that the bid passes the ACCC and Foreign Investment Review Board processes, by the end of June 2020, Lion will be owned by Mengniu (pronounced Mong-u), a massive Chinese-based, Hong Kong Stock Exchange listed company that has Arla, a European cooperative, and Danone, a world leader in yoghurt and other dairy foods, as shareholders.
Lion Dairy and Drinks has been on the market for over 12 months with its current owner, the Japanese brewer, Kirin, wishing to concentrate on its core business and get out of the Australian dairy industry. Kirin bought Lion from the Philippine brewer San Miguel a number of years ago.
While the owners of the business are international, no farms are involved in the deal. All farms are Australian owned, Australian operated, employ Australians where possible, support local Australian businesses, shop in local towns, have kids at local schools. We, the farmers, see ourselves as local Australian people working hard to produce the best product we can, every day.
The problem, regardless of the ownership of the processors, is that supermarkets don't see value in our 100 per cent natural product. They simply see it as a loss leader to get consumers through their shop doors.
Would we have liked an Australian company to buy Lion, yes, we would, but given there were no bids from an Australian company, that could not happen.
Mengniu has indicated it wishes to grow the business; we hope it does. We look forward to discussing possible ways forward with them in the future and seeing this industry grow again.
Boycotting Australian produced, Australian processed, Australian distributed, Australian sold product simply because it is owned by an overseas processor will only hurt the Australian producers.
The Chinese see Australia as a great place to buy food because of our clean, green image and our high-quality standards. Why doesn't Australia look at it in the same light?