Federal Member for Wide Bay Llew O'Brien has welcomed 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 supermarket.
Mr O'Brien said the Morrison Government has ordered 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 to ensure producers are treated fairly by the major retailers.
"This is a much-needed inquiry to ensure producers are treated fairly by the major retailers, and importantly, the inquiry will also examine whether the new Dairy Code should be extended across the entire domestic supply chain including retailers," Mr O'Brien said.
"I've strongly supported the dairy industry and fought the supermarket giants to end the unfair $1 milk price war. I am committed to ensuring our producers get a fair go, so I am pleased the Liberal and Nationals Government has announced this inquiry in response to long-held concerns about the current bargaining imbalances and the misuse, and in some cases the abuse, of this power by some sections of the fresh food supply chain.
"Our farmers work incredibly hard and often take considerable financial risks to grow the fresh, quality food we all take for granted. But as I have heard time and time again, once their produce is harvested or processed and sent off to market, farmers have little or no bargaining power - the supermarket majors hold all the cards when it comes to deciding what they will pay.
"The Government has heard not all interactions between farmers and the supermarket giants are conducted fairly and in good faith and there are bargaining imbalances and other serious issues that need to be looked at."
Mr O'Brien said an example of this was seen last year when Coles had to pay over $5 million to Norco dairy farmers after it was found the supermarket giant 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 Wide Bay farmers and producers with an opportunity to submit evidence, raise concerns and share their own experiences in the domestic marketplace," Mr O'Brien said.
"I strongly encourage local farmers and agribusinesses to take this opportunity to contribute to this inquiry, and the submissions can remain confidential so farmers can speak out without fear of retribution or retaliation.
"This inquiry is not designed to regulate food prices. Instead, it will identify problems and recommend policy options – including the potential for an all-encompassing Agricultural Code – if that is appropriate.
"The Liberal and Nationals Government is committed to fighting for regional and rural Australia, and I will always advocate for a better and fairer deal for farmers."
The ACCC will commence its Inquiry on Monday 31 August and will report to the Government by 30 November.