National Farmers' Federation

Inquiry a chance to get a better deal for farmers

The National Farmers’ Federation has welcomed today’s announcement of an ACCC inquiry into perishable agricultural goods.

Chief Executive Tony Mahar said there continued to be systemic power imbalances across Australia’s food supply chain and a Government-sanctioned inquiry into these markets was a prudent step.

“The importance of a robust, sustainable food supply chain, from paddock to supermarket shelves, has come into sharp focus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Letting sunlight in across the whole food supply chain will benefit all involved from farmers to consumers,” Mr Mahar said.

“The NFF is committed to ensuring farmers receive a fair return for their produce. That means ensuring powerful players along the supply chain (both pre and post farm gate) are acting fairly.

“Inquiries into the red meat, dairy and chicken meat sectors have revealed that too often, farmers – as the first link in the supply chain – face real challenges in their ability to negotiate.”

The inquiry by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will examine the bargaining power in supply chains for perishable food goods including meat, poultry, seafood and horticulture. The Inquiry will also assess the effectiveness of the recently enacted Dairy Code of Conduct. We want any measures to be effective, transparent and give all parties in the value chain certainty.

“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 the inquiry should investigate whether there is deliberate adversarial or anti-competitive behaviour and that clarity as to what behaviours were and were not acceptable, would provide the confidence to all involved in getting fresh produce to Australian consumers.

“We welcome the announcement of the inquiry today, by Minister Littleproud, and want the inquiry to deliver change where it is required.

“Past inquires into competition legislation have identified egregious behaviour which did not amount to contraventions of competition law provisions which is an issue.

“If this is the case reform of the provisions and principles underlying the competition law must be strongly considered, including reform of unconscionable conduct provisions and the inclusion of a fairness principle, or we need a new framework to deal with unfair business practices within supply chains relating to small business.”

The NFF is supported by government and industry in its goal for agriculture to be a $100 billion industry by 2030.

“At the heart of our plan for growth is a mutually beneficial relationship between farmers, intermediaries, processers, retailers and consumers and above all, fair returns to farmers for the food they produce for all Australians.”

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