National Farmers' Federation

Supermarket inquiry announces dates to hear horror stories

The Senate Select Committee on Supermarket Prices has announced an initial set of dates to hear stories about bad behaviour by supermarkets.

The first round of hearings will be in Hobart this Thursday 7 March, then Orange on 12 March and Melbourne at Tullamarine on 13 March. Further dates may be announced at the discretion of the Committee.

Jolyon Burnett, Chair of the NFF Horticulture Council, said it was critically important as many fresh produce growers and wholesalers as possible supplying the supermarkets, either directly or indirectly, shared their stories.

“Individual anecdotes are powerful without doubt. Even better is number of people describing the same practice or behaviour which will allow this inquiry to establish a pattern and paint a more complete picture,” said Mr Burnett.

“It is only with a clear picture that we’ll get from this inquiry the right sort of recommendations that will make a difference to the lives and profitability of our industry for years to come.

“Growers are already coming forward, supplying industry representatives with compelling evidence of behaviour we think is unfair, unethical and often abusive. But we need more as there’s strength in numbers.”

In addition to the hearings announced, the Committee where requested will also make arrangements for individual growers to give evidence confidentially from their home or office by secure video link straight into Parliament House.

“We are aware the main reason stopping growers coming forward is the real fear of being identified and suffering commercial retribution that could ruin their business and livelihoods,” said Mr Burnett.

“So, we’ve received assurances from the Committee that records of confidential conversations will only ever be shared with members of the Committee at their request, for a limited period of time and on paper that’ll subsequently be destroyed.

“It’s now or never.

“This Senate inquiry, together with the current review of the Food and Grocery Code and ACCC inquiry into supermarkets, plus public interest in the welfare of farmers and a government seemingly willing to take action, represents a genuinely once in a generation opportunity to make sensible reforms that will rebalance the relationship between supermarkets and their suppliers.”

Growers and suppliers interested in better understanding how to appear physically at hearings or arrange confidential virtual conversations with the Committee are encouraged to speak with Richard Shannon, Executive Officer to the NFF Horticulture Council on 0448 860 630.

Otherwise, growers and suppliers can contact and make these arrangements directly with the Committee by phone on 02 6277 3585 or by email at supermarketprices.sen@aph.gov.au.

More information on the Committee and this inquiry, including its Terms of Reference, can be found at https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Supermarket_Prices/SupermarketPrices.