Warrnambool farmers pivotal in global battle for Australia's oldest dairy producer

Mon Nov 18, 2013 4:00pm EST
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* Farmers own 30-40 pct of Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory Co

* Warrnambool at the centre of a three-way international bidding war

* Farmers at Warrnambool divided over contending bids

By Sonali Paul and Jane Wardell

WARRNAMBOOL, Australia, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Dairy farmers in the tiny Australian town of Warrnambool, battered in recent years by drought, a stubbornly high currency and a bruising supermarket war over milk prices, are on the cusp of a much welcome windfall.

Along with milk truck drivers and other suppliers, the farmers in this sleepy coastal town with more cows than people have emerged as the kingmakers in an international battle for Australia's oldest dairy producer.

And they are not simply looking at the topline offer.

"At the end of the day, farmers just want to be paid well," said Simone Renyard, whose husband's family has been both suppliers and shareholders of Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory Co for generations. "If we get well-paid, most farmers aren't going to care which way it goes."

Renyard's dairy farm is one of many in the lush green fields near Warrnambool town, which marks the western end of the Great Ocean Road.   Continued...