National Farmers' Federation

Domestic markets must deliver better outcomes for both consumers and growers

The National Farmers’ Federation Horticulture Council has today joined with the NFF and other agriculture industry bodies in welcoming the announcement by Treasurer Jim Chalmers of a competition policy review.
The review will look at competition laws, policies and institutions to ensure they remain fit for purpose, with a focus on reforms that would increase productivity, reduce the cost of living and boost wages.
Chair of the Council Jolyon Burnett said the review had come at a critical juncture for the national horticulture industry and consumers.
“Growers are currently getting squeezed like never before. There are few businesses making money at the moment,” said Mr Burnett.
“Clearly market concentration and a lack of genuine competition is a driving factor, most obviously at the retail end of the supply chain, but also all the way along it, starting with agricultural inputs.
“With record profits being announced its clear that it’s not just growers but also consumers who are paying the price in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis.
“Perhaps most galling for growers is the messaging they receive as consumers, that efforts from the two major supermarkets to keep prices low are centred on paying their suppliers less.
“This is as they both post profits past $1 billion, built on prices that have gone up more quickly than inflation. It’s a particularly brazen, and to date successful, attempt at having cake and eating it.   
While the review has been welcomed, the horticulture industry is putting the Albanese Government on notice that significant reform must now be made.
“We have had any number of reviews into competition policy over decades, but not one government has arrested the trajectory toward greater market concentration,” said Mr Burnett.
“Growers are weary of expectations left unmet and wary of any new review. We need confidence in the Treasurer’s desire to grasp the nettle.
“To achieve necessary reforms, we need to constantly remind the public, consumers, and even our own industry, that the way markets work is a choice we make as a society.
“Currently, market concentration is having the effect of transferring jobs, wealth and wellbeing out of rural Australia. Country towns are continuing to hollow out for the sake of dividends and executive bonus payments.
“If markets are working in ways that no longer serve our collective interests and values, then we need to reform them. We are not beholden to the narrow interests of corporates and their shareholders of profit above all else.”