Goodman Fielder, the Australia-based food maker, has reportedly dropped out of the bidding for Dairy Farmers.

The company had pulled out of the race after refusing to sign confidentiality agreements necessary to secure its place in the auction, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

Earlier this week, Dairy Farmers closed the first round of bidding. Local reports have cited co-operative Murray Goulburn, Italian dairy giant Parmalat and National Foods, the Australian arm of Japanese food and beverage group Kirin as potential suitors for the business.

In February, Kazuyasu Kato, president of Japanese food and beverage group Kirin, said he considered Dairy Farmers a sound strategic fit for National Foods.

The Japanese brewery paid A$2bn (US$1.8bn) for National Foods, Australia's largest dairy and juice maker, last November.