The NFF Horticulture Council has welcomed the release last week of the third and latest annual report from Chris Leptos AO, the Federal Government appointed Independent Reviewer under the Food and Grocery Code.
For the most recent 2022-23 reporting period, the Reviewer has again made troubling findings concerning the behaviour of the big four supermarkets, Coles, Woolworths, Aldi and Metcash, when dealing with their suppliers.
Chair of the NFF Horticulture Council Jolyon Burnett said it was disappointing to see, more than any other product category, that supermarkets are dragging their feet when responding to price increase requests from fruit and vegetable suppliers.
“We have for a long time been hearing directly from growers about the squeeze from the increasing costs of production and the inability to pass those costs along the supply chain,” said Mr Burnett.
“These results validate a feeling that the speed of response is a tactic of supermarkets to keep the prices they pay to growers as low as possible for as long as possible.
“What then infuriates growers, who are also supermarket customers, is witnessing prices rise far more steeply at retail than they are at farmgate.”
The report highlights a number of areas of concern for the fresh produce category, including the performance of Code Arbiters.
“Not one fruit or vegetable supplier said they were satisfied with the how a Code Arbiter handled a complaint,” said Mr Burnett.
“Other concerns centre around late payments outside agreed terms and deductions being made off invoices without consent.
“If this report were to make it all the way to the North Pole, you’d think Santa would be revising his schedule in Australia. That is if he hadn’t already, based on the wider reporting in media of price gouging and the like.
“The report will however most definitely inform our response to Treasury reviews currently underway into the Food and Grocery Code and competition reform across the economy, including recommendations we might make on far more significant penalties for poor behaviour.”
The full report of the Independent Reviewer can be found here: https://grocerycodereviewer.gov.au/reports/annual-reports/2022-23-annual-report
- 33% of respondents have raised issues with the retail/wholesale buying teams.
- 100% of respondents do not feel like their issues were satisfactorily addressed by the retail/wholesale buying teams.
- 100% of respondents do not believe their issues were satisfactorily addressed by the Code Arbiter
- 53% of respondents fear damaging commercial relationship as an impediment to raising issues (highest across all product categories)
- 23% of respondents fear retribution as an impediment to raising issues (second highest across all product categories)
- 34% of respondents fear damaging a commercial relationship as an impediment to raising an issue with the Code Arbiter (second highest across all product categories)
- 21% of respondents are not confident confidentiality would be maintained by code arbiters (third highest across all product categories)
- 2% of respondents have raised concerns with Code arbiters in the past year.