The National Farmers’ Federation has welcomed the announcement of a Senate inquiry to scrutinise the impact of market concentration on food prices and the pricing strategies employed by the major supermarkets.
NFF President David Jochinke said the inquiry was an opportunity to ensure small to medium farming businesses were being treated fairly by larger players.
“Australia has one of the most concentrated food supply chains in the world and this imbalance in market power is hurting both farmers and consumers,” Mr Jochinke said.
“We know what Australians are paying at the checkout, and we know what we’re receiving as farmers – but who clips the ticket in the middle is shrouded in secrecy. We’d like to see a lot more transparency.”
Farmers are warning though that the inquiry should not distract from the Government’s broader competition reform agenda.
“Competition is a major issue in our supply chains and it’s a drag on productivity for the broader economy.
“Shining a light on how supermarkets use their market power is a positive step. But it can’t become a reason to delay action on broader competition policy reform.
“There are actions the Australian Government can take today to improve competition and deliver tangible benefits for farmers and small businesses in Australia,” Mr Jochinke explained.
The NFF is continuing to call for a suite of measures to level the playing field for farmers, including:
- Mandatory price reporting and disclosure in the supply chain;
- price reporting platforms, like the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service which provides free, unbiased price and sales information assist in the marketing and distribution of farm commodities;
- increased ACCC powers to access data from supply chain companies. This would allow the ACCC to compel companies to provide information without a Section 95 referral from the Minister;
- increased resourcing for the ACCC to actively monitor markets and supply chains;
- investigate the use of agency agreements as a form of retail price maintenance;
- mandatory codes of conduct across agricultural supply chains with significant market concentration e.g. poultry meat and the Food and Grocery Code; and,
- clearer anonymous complaints processes so that farmers can report issues without fear of commercial retribution.
“We know from our survey of more than 1,600 farmers across Australia that this is the number one issue keeping them awake at night.
“Fairer, more transparent supply chains can only be a good thing for both farmers and consumers, so we’re excited to see this start to get the focus it needs.”
Competition reform is one of five priority areas which form part of the Keep Farmers Farming campaign led by the NFF. To learn more, visit keepfarmersfarming.org.au.