National Farmers' Federation

Time to end farmers’ raw deal

As supermarket prices climb most shoppers would be shocked to learn that some farmers are not seeing one extra dollar in their pocket.

“Many farmers continue to be ripped off, held to ransom by the might and power of the food supply chain with little to no protections from Australia’s competition law,” NFF CEO Tony Mahar said.

This election the NFF is calling on both major parties to have the courage to commit to the competition law reform needed to level the playing field for farmers, small businesses, and ultimately consumers.

“Australians expect farmers to receive their fair share for the food they produce. But while prices are on the up, farmers remain price takers, at the mercy of the formidable bargaining position of processors and retailers.”

Mr Mahar said the time for tough talk from those in office was over. 

“Actions speak louder than words. To date, action has been missing in action.

“There must be an end to the unfair, unethical and unconscionable business practices that hurt farmers, small businesses, and consumers.”

Shockingly, farmers behind an Aussie household staple are among those most poorly treated. Australians eat more than 47kg per person of chicken per year, yet poultry growers are well and truly at the bottom of the pecking order.

“Poultry farmers do not own the birds but care for them on behalf of powerful processing companies yet it’s the farmers who are required to own and maintain the sheds, equipment and resources needed to do this.

“The chicken meat processing industry is highly concentrated. Growers have few options as to who they contract with. Often growers have no option but to accept contracts that aren’t in their best interest. 

“Poultry farmers are often required to make sizeable infrastructure investments only to face the possibility that their contracts can be terminated with little to no notice, with no alternative contract arrangements to fall back on.” 

The NFF has documented case studies across the poultry and also horticulture industries of egregious commercial behaviours that farmers have little choice but to contend with. 

“It speaks volumes that most impacted farmers are reluctant to speak publicly about their mistreatment in fear of reprisal. It’s a clear demonstration of how broken some of our food supply chain has become and how inadequate many current competition protections are.”

In its #TimeToThrive Federal Election platform, the NFF is calling for:   

1) The establishment of the Perishable Agricultural Goods Advocate to undertake compliance and enforcement activities on behalf of the most vulnerable in the food supply chain.

2) The implementation of overdue changes to unfair contract terms that allow for unfair clauses to be struck out of contracts, and importantly, create financial penalties for those using unfair contract terms.

3) The reform of merger and acquisitions  laws that provide the ACCC with teeth to stop acquisitions that may create undue market concentration in the future, and provide the ACCC with greater ability to place conditions on such acquisitions. 

4) The introduction of a legislative right to repair for farm machinery that will ensure farmers are not gouged for the cost of machinery repairs and maintenance, as recommended by the Productivity Commission.

Find out more and to sign up to receive NFF’s Policy Voting Guide at www.TimeToThrive.com.au 

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