Inquiry focuses on perishable agricultural supply chains

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) will commence a three-month inquiry into bargaining power in supply chains for perishable agricultural products in Australia.

These products include meat (pork, lamb, beef), poultry (chicken meat and eggs), seafood and horticulture goods not already covered by a mandatory industry code.

The inquiry – initiated by the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and the Agriculture Minister David Littleproud – will take a broad look at trading practices throughout supply chains, including the relationships between farmers, processors and retailers.

The ACCC will review the extent to which any potential bargaining power imbalances in these relationships can adversely impact the efficient operation of these markets, and the role of market structures and regulations in delivering efficient and equitable outcomes.

“This inquiry provides an opportunity to take a broad look at perishable agricultural supply chains in Australia, utilising knowledge we have gained in working across a range of agricultural issues,” said ACCC Deputy Chair, Mick Keogh.

“In recent years the ACCC has conducted detailed market studies in the beef cattle, horticulture, dairy and winegrape sectors, and has continuing responsibilities associated with the Horticulture and Dairy Codes, as well as the Food and Grocery Code,” he said.

Frydenberg and Littleproud said in a joint statement that the Government is committed to supporting a vibrant and sustainable market-based agricultural sector that operates for the benefit of consumers.

“Importantly, in conducting the inquiry the ACCC will take into account the Government's longstanding policy that it does not regulate prices along the supply chain,” they said – explaining they want want to ensure the regulatory framework remains fit for purpose in light of Covid-19 disruption.

The ACCC is expected to provide a report to the Government by 30 November 2020.

In July, the ACCC monitored the introduction of a new mandatory dairy code of conduct by checking processor compliance.

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