Woolworths is the first of the big supermarkets to lift retail cheese prices but there's a bittersweet twist to the announcement for Australian dairy farmers.
The big supermarket has lifted the price of its Australian-made home brand cheese this week, something dairy lobby groups had long sought.
But the price shift makes the Australian-made product significantly more expensive than the cheese Woolworths imports and markets under the "Hillview" brand.
It follows announcements last week from Aldi, Woolworths and Coles that the price of home-brand milk in each supermarket chain would rise to $1.29 a litre.
In response to questions regarding the value of cheese, a spokesperson said Woolworths was "...committed to supporting a more sustainable Australian dairy industry".
"We offer a wide range of Australian cheese products at different price points to suit different household budgets, with more than 90 per cent of the local range priced above $11/kg," the spokesperson said.
"As a result of recent farm-gate price movements, we have been paying suppliers more for cheese products in recent times.
"Accordingly, we have reviewed and adjusted our prices on a range of Woolworths-branded cheese products this week.
"We never take decisions to increase the prices on staple items lightly, and will continue working hard to deliver great value for our customers."
Woolworths says the average selling price of its Australian cheese range is more than $13.50 a kilogram.
The price of Woolworths 500g cheese has increased from $5.50 to $5.80, while its 1kg cheese blocks have risen from $7.90 to $8.50.
A 1kg block of the cheese Woolworths imports from New Zealand and sells under "Hillview" branding will continue to sell for $7.90.
Everyone talks about the scourge of dollar milk on the dairy industry but the impacts of cheap cheese should not be discounted.
When the Stock & Land asked how this fitted with Woolworths' commitment to support a more sustainable Australian dairy industry, a spokesperson said Hillview cheese was "...an important value line for budget shoppers."
"The vast majority of our cheese range and volume sold is Australian cheese."
A spokesperson from peak lobby group Australian Dairy Farmers said it encouraged consumers to "buy Australian dairy products because it supports farmers, supports communities, and supports local economies".
"They can take an interest in where their food comes from by checking the packaging to ensure it is produced in Australia," the spokesperson said.
Coles would not comment on the price movement but its Australian-made 1kg Coles Smart Buy Cheddar Block retails for $6.90.
Australian Dairy Farmers said cheap cheese deserved greater attention.
"The retail price of cheese is just as important as the retail price of milk," an ADF spokesperson said.
"Everyone talks about the scourge of dollar milk on the dairy industry but the impacts of cheap cheese should not be discounted.
"Ninety per cent of Australia's dairy farmers do not supply fresh milk contracts and, for them, the issue around cheese and the rest of dairy cabinet are extremely important.
"That's why it's heartening to see that Woolworths has now raised the price of its homebrand 500g and 1kg cheese.
ADF said it was determined to ensure, "greater value, for cheese as well as the rest of dairy cabinet, is captured at retail and that this value is shared equitably through the supply chain."
"This is a long term project and is currently a priority for ADF and its members."
This story first appeared on Stock & Land
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