The consolidation of grocery and fresh produce retail over the past four decades has led to a radical shift in the bargaining power of individual agricultural producers.
Now farm gate prices are being dictated by large supermarket chains without consideration for the economics of production.
In 2015 the Commonwealth government released the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper Stronger Farmers, Stronger Economy.
One of the recommendations was to increase the funding for the ACCC, including the appointment of an ACCC Commissioner with specific responsibility for agriculture. $11.4m in funding was subsequently provided over four years to the ACCC.
The ACCC is currently undertaking an Inquiry into Perishable Agricultural Goods, due to report to Government 30 November 2020. The submission to the inquiry from the National Farmers’ Federation said it:
…… demonstrates how concentrated supply chain power has corroded the profitability and viability of the farming sector.
A sustainable agriculture sector is one in which the farming sector can be profitable and viable. In the words of the Agriculture white paper:
It keeps families as the cornerstone of farming and …. supports strong and vibrant rural communities.
In order for this to be the case, the NFF is calling for significant reform of competition laws, including:
- Increasing the breadth and scope of unconscionable conduct provision;
- A prescribed set of unfair practices;
- Broadening of codes of conduct to more agricultural products; and
- Regular market monitoring of food supply chains to inform further regulator interventions.