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Supermarkets need to be held to account

Industry Advocacy

On Monday 19 February, Four Corners aired a special report looking into the tactics being implemented by Australian supermarket giants to keep prices high and the competition out.

Four Corners interviewed the CEOs from both Coles and Woolworths, key experts in competition and policy, and suppliers and growers to unpack impacts being felt across the supply chain from suppliers and farmers to consumers and even employees.

APAL’s Head of Government Relations & Advocacy, Jeremy Griffith, met with Four Corners as a spokesperson for the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) Horticulture Council Competition Taskforce to provide an extensive and detailed background briefing to bring to light the implications for growers of perishable goods in the horticulture sector.

The interview with Four Corners was just one example of the efforts of the NFF Hort Council’s Competition Taskforce, in place to lobby the government to bring to the fore the implications that the supermarket power imbalance is having on growers and farmers across the horticulture sector, highlighting:

  • weekly buying practices
  • the lack of transparency from the retailers
  • the challenges growers face in extracting a fair price for their produce
  • the risks involved for growers/farmers selling perishable goods in a duopoly environment.

The horticulture sector of Australia provides 98 per cent of Australia’s fresh food and vegetables. It underpins our national food security, is one of the most sustainable food groups and is fundamental to a healthy diet. However, due to the perishable nature of fresh fruit and vegetables (and limited exports), it is highly vulnerable to the power imbalance resulting from the market domination of the major supermarkets.

Appearing on 7 News on Tuesday 20 February, Jeremy Griffith, spokesperson for the NFF Horticulture Council Competition Taskforce, said: “The supermarkets know that fruit and vegetables are perishable. If you don’t sell it, it’s worthless and, as a result, they can exploit that by offering rock bottom, take it or leave it prices.”

Apple & Pear Australia Ltd (APAL) sits on the National Farmers’ Federation Horticulture Council Competition Taskforce and will continue its efforts with the taskforce to push for change. The taskforce is strongly advocating for the government to drastically increase the powers of the regulator to protect the horticulture sector, by implementing the following:

  • Creating a stand-alone policy to protect the sector.
  • Reworking the definition of “anti-competitive behaviour” and increasing powers to allow temporary market share caps, punitive fines and divesture powers.
  • Allowing the regulator improved and unencumbered access to historical buy and sell data of the supermarkets.
  • Fixing information asymmetry between growers and retailers.
  • Conducting random audits and reviews of buying practices with personal accountability on management for any breaches.

APAL will keep industry abreast of the NFF Hort Council Competition Taskforce’s progress in this space over the coming months.

Click here to watch the Four Corners report.

 

Jeremy Griffith appearing on Four Corners

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