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'Exploitative Behaviour' - Farmers respond to bombshell Supermarket Inquiry Report

Western Plains App

Luke Williams

10 May 2024, 3:39 AM

 'Exploitative Behaviour' - Farmers respond to bombshell Supermarket Inquiry Report Image: ABC.

The National Farmers Federation (FF) has welcomed the report by the Senate Select Committee on Supermarket Prices, which they say "reveals the true cost of supermarket power and exploitative behaviour being borne by both Australian households and the national horticulture industry". 

 

The report, released May 9, makes 14 recommendations including that the ACCC gain powers to sell off subsidiary business interests or investments of supermarkets where it has found to engage in unconscionable conduct. 

 

That is, a recommendation that the government being given the power to break up the supermarket duopoly held by Coles and Woolworths. 



The Greens-led Senate Select Committee on Supermarket Prices has also recommended making price gouging illegal “This is a landmark report with serious proposals to tackle the price of food, and the profiteering that has done so much harm to the people of Australia,“ Greens Economic Justice spokesperson and Committee Chair Senator Nick McKim said. 


“It would also create a significant new power to stop unreasonable pricing that has been rampant for years because of a lack of competition.” 


NFF President David Jochinke said the report was "another piece of evidence to support the challenges being faced by thousands of Australian farmers, in particular those supplying perishable goods". 


He said the NFF welcomes a number of the Committee’s recommendations which closely align with calls from the sector. He said these include making the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct mandatory, extending the Code to cover major retailers of ‘Greenlife’ products, and putting in place significant penalties for breaches.   


Senator Nick Mckim. Image: News Corp. 


NFF Horticulture Council's Jolyon Burnett said the committee's report was part of a growing base of evidence painting supermarkets and Bunnings "in the same light as the big four banks following the banking royal commission". 


NSW Farmers Vice President Rebecca Reardon said the report findings were simply further proof of the ‘profit push’ pricing practices of the nation’s major supermarkets that farmers and consumers had been grappling with for years. 

 

“Prices are not down – supermarkets have clearly profited off consumers amid a cost-of-living crisis, while also using predatory pricing to extract huge margins from farmers too,” Mrs Reardon said.   

“The huge market power our grocery giants have held for too long is what has enabled this behaviour to spiral further and further beyond our control, backing farmers and families into a corner from which they cannot escape.” 


David Jochinke. Image: Trade Machinery. 


"The select committee has today reported on troubling testimony from growers, of predatory pricing practices that exploit the perishable nature of fresh produce, the imposition on growers of costs and risks outside their control, and of an almost universal fear of commercial retribution should any objections be raised," she said. 


The Senate committee questioned the bosses of Australia's grocery companies — at one stage threatened outgoing Woolworths boss Brad Banducci with contempt, which carries a penalty of six months in jail, for refusing to provide information about the company's profits. 


Treasurer Jim Chalmers talked up the steps the government was already taking to "make our supermarket sector more competitive", including a beefed-up code of conduct and merger reform. 


"We want a fair go for families and farmers," he said. 

"We know that it's at the check-out where some of these cost of living pressures are most acutely, most harshly felt."