THE National Farmers’ Federation has thrown its support behind calls to strengthen merger laws – saying the move is one of a number needed to ensure fair competition for farmers.
In its submission to a parliamentary inquiry on ‘Competition and Economic Dynamism’, the NFF has warned that exploitation of market power is threatening the viability of many farm businesses.
“Farmers don’t shy away from competition,” said NFF Vice President, David Jochinke.
“We compete in a fiercely competitive global marketplace, and that competition has made Australian farmers among the most efficient and productive on the planet.
“Sadly, within our domestic supply chains market concentration has been on a steady march upwards – putting farmers and consumers at a disadvantage.
“Aussie farmers are the meat in a highly concentrated sandwich,” Mr Jochinke said.
The NFF is pushing the Albanese Government towards wholesale reform of Australia’s competition laws.
“The timing is right for root and branch reform. For years the ACCC itself has been crying out for reform. They’ve had a front row seat to merger after merger that has gone through without sufficient scrutiny.
“Perhaps it’s time we listened to the experts,” Mr Jochinke said.
The NFF singled out the chicken meat industry as a cause for concern.
“Just ten years ago, there were nine big chicken processing plants in NSW – owned by six different companies. Today, there are two companies and four plants operating regional monopsonies. That’s just one example of one product, there are plenty more.”
Beyond strengthening merger laws, the NFF is also calling for a suite of reforms – including improved price transparency measures, improved access to dispute resolution, and increased resourcing for the ACCC.
“Without intervention, this year will see funding for the ACCC’s Agriculture Unit cease. Without that cop on the beat, we can only expect the situation for farmers to deteriorate,” Mr Jochinke said.
“We also need to give farmers a more complete understanding of how costs are being shared down the supply chain. The big corporates who buy from farmers have all the information about costs up and down the supply chain. None of this is shared with farmers.
“Getting a fair price should start with getting fair access to information.”
Mr Jochinke acknowledged promising rhetoric from Assistant Minister Andrew Leigh and the ACCC in recent weeks.
“It seems we have an opportunity here to set the Australian economy up for success. We just need to turn recent talk into action,” Mr Jochinke said.
Agriculture must be prepared to fight for the continued funding of the ACCC’s Agriculture Unit. Since its creation the market problems faced by primary producers have been recognised and understood for the very first time.