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    Member for Mallee Anne Webster.

Inquiry into food chain welcomed

Western Victorian Federal Government politicians Anne Webster and Dan Tehan have welcomed an inquiry into the domestic fresh food and dairy supply chain.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is in charge of the three-month inquiry investigating the product flow from the farmgate to the supermarket.

The inquiry, which started on Monday, will explore the trail of fresh food such as meat, eggs, fruit and vegetables and seafood.

Dr Webster and Mr Tehan said the investigation was to ensure major retailers treated producers fairly.

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They said the government was committed to fighting for ‘a fair go for our farmers’ and the inquiry was in response to ‘long held’ concerns about bargaining imbalances ‘that currently exist and the misuse, and in some cases the abuse, of this power by some sections of the fresh food supply chain’.

They said in a mirror statement: “Our farmers take considerable risks and work incredibly hard to grow the fresh and affordable food we all take for granted.

“But there are concerns that once farm produce is harvested or processed and sent off to market, producers have little bargaining power and are at the mercy of the powerful supermarkets when it comes to the price they are paid.

“Unfortunately, not all interactions between farmers and the major supermarkets are conducted fairly and in good faith and there are bargaining imbalances and other serious issues that need review.

“We saw this in 2019 when Coles had to pay more than $5-million to Norco dairy farmers after it was found it had not passed on the full amount of a milk price rise, despite claiming to do so in a marketing campaign.”

Dr Webster and Mr Tehan said the inquiry would provide Mallee and Wannon farmers across all food producing sectors with an opportunity to submit evidence, raise concerns and share their own experiences in the domestic marketplace.

“We strongly encourage local farmers and agribusinesses to take this opportunity, while it’s available, and contribute to this important inquiry,” they said.

“We want to ensure we have the right policies in place – but to do that, we need industry to speak up and tell us what’s really going on.

“Importantly, the ACCC has guaranteed the inquiry will accept confidential submissions so farmers can provide evidence of harmful practices without fear of punishment and retribution by the major supermarkets.

“This inquiry is not designed to regulate food prices. Instead, it will identify problems and recommend policy options – including a possible all-encompassing agricultural code – if appropriate.”

The ACCC will report its findings to the government on November 30.

The entire September 2, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!