The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission inquiry will examine the treatment of farmers in the marketplace, including the ongoing debate around the cost of milk and fresh foods such as meat, eggs, seafood, fruit and vegetables.
Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said the government secured the three-month ACCC independent inquiry with a critical focus on the new dairy code being extended across the entire domestic supply chain to include retailers.
“Australian farmers take considerable risks and work incredibly hard to grow the fresh and affordable food we all take for granted,” he said.
“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.”
Riverina Fresh chief executive Rob Collier said news of the inquiry was welcome for the region, which has numerous producers across all industries.
“We’re supportive of anything that brings greater transparency and better outcomes for farmers,” he said.
“This is a good initiative in that light but, having said that, the proof is in the pudding so it will be a matter of waiting and seeing what’s to come of the inquiry, and if that transparency is achieved.”
Mr Littleproud said the inquiry would allow Australian farmers across all food producing sectors to submit evidence and share concerns.
“We want to ensure we have the right policies in place. To do that, we need the industry to speak up and tell us what’s really going on,” he said.
NSW Farmers president James Jackson said the inquiry was a promising development for farmers, who had been raising the issue of supply chain power inequities for some time.
“The major supermarkets’ pricing wars on milk and cheese have caused irreparable damage to dairy farmers,” he said.
“Supermarkets have squeezed the margins of processors and farmers for short-term benefits to the consumer.”
The inquiry is due to report to the federal government by November 30.