Nationals secure ACCC Inquiry into the major retailers’ treatment of farmers

26 August 2020

The Nationals have today secured an historic inquiry by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) into the domestic fresh food and dairy supply chain, from the farmgate right through to the retailer, including examining the treatment of farmers in the marketplace. 

Minister for Agriculture and Deputy Leader of the Nationals, David Littleproud, said the government has secured a three-month ACCC independent inquiry into the supply chain for fresh foods such as meat (beef, lamb, pork, chicken), eggs, seafood, fruit and vegetables. Critically, this inquiry will examine whether the new Dairy Code should also be extended across the entire domestic supply chain to include retailers. 

“The Nationals fought hard to deliver this important inquiry in response to long held concerns about bargaining imbalances that currently exist and the misuse, and in some cases the abuse, of this power by some sections of the fresh food supply chain.

“Australian farmers take considerable risks and work incredibly hard to grow the fresh and affordable food we all take for granted.

“But there are concerns that once farm produce is harvested or processed and sent off to market, producers have little bargaining power and are at the mercy of the powerful supermarkets when it comes to the price they are paid.

“Unfortunately, not all interactions between farmers and the major supermarkets are conducted fairly and in good faith and there are bargaining imbalances and other serious issues that need to be looked at. 

“We saw this in 2019 when Coles had to pay over $5 million to Norco dairy farmers after it was found it had not passed on the full amount of a milk price rise, despite claiming to do so in a marketing campaign. 

“This Inquiry will provide Australian farmers across all food producing sectors with an opportunity to submit evidence, raise concerns and share their own experiences in the domestic marketplace.

“I strongly encourage farmers and other businesses across the supply chain to take this opportunity, while it’s available, and contribute to this important inquiry. We want to ensure we have the right policies in place – but to do that, we need industry to speak up and tell us what’s really going on.

“Importantly, the ACCC has guaranteed that the Inquiry will accept confidential submissions so that farmers can provide evidence of harmful practices without the fear of punishment and retribution by the major supermarkets.

“This inquiry is not designed to regulate food prices. Instead, it will identify problems and recommend policy options – including a possible all-encompassing Agricultural Code – if appropriate.

“The Nationals are the only party dedicated to fighting for regional and rural Australia, and we will always advocate for fairer treatment of our farmers,” Minister Littleproud said today.

The ACCC will commence its Inquiry on Monday and will report to the Government by 30 November.