11 September, 2020
Farmers welcome inquiry into supply chain imbalance
FARMERS nationwide have long attested to the systemic power imbalances across Australia's food and fibre supply chains.
Now the ACCC has launched a three-month inquiry into the bargaining power between farmers, retailers, and their intermediaries, in the domestic supply chains of perishable agricultural goods.
ACCC Deputy Chair, Mick Keough, has announced the organisation will review the extent to which agricultural markets have been affected by these power imbalances.
“In recent years the ACCC has conducted detailed market studies in the beef cattle, horticulture, dairy, and wine grape sectors,” Mr Keough said.
“This inquiry will take a broad look at perishable agricultural supply chains utilising the knowledge we have already gained.”
National Farmers Federation Chief Executive, Tony Mahar, has welcomed the inquiry.
“The importance of a robust and sustainable food supply chain has come into sharp focus during the Covid-19 pandemic,” Mr Mahar said.
“Letting sunlight in across the whole food supply chain will benefit all involved, from farmers to consumers.”
Mr Mahar said earlier inquiries into the red meat, dairy, and chicken meat sectors had revealed that, all too often, farmers faced real challenges in their ability to negotiate.
“These fast-moving products are particularly vulnerable to unfair practices by buyers with market power, and where the time to negotiate is short,” Mr Mahar said.
“At the heart of our plan for growth is a mutually beneficial relationship between farmers, intermediaries, processors, retailers and consumers.
“Above all, we’re committed to ensuring farmers receive a fair return for their produce.”
Mr Mahar said it was deeply concerning that past inquiries into competition legislation had identified egregious behaviour which did not actually amount to contraventions of the law.
“If this is the case, reform of competition law must be strongly considered, including reform of unconscionable conduct provisions and the inclusion of a fairness principle,” Mr Mahar said.
“Clarity as to what behaviours are acceptable, and an investigation as to whether there is deliberate adversarial or anticompetitive behaviour, would provide confidence to all involved in getting fresh produce to Australian consumers.”
The NFF is supported by government and industry in its goal for agriculture to be a $100 billion industry by 2030.