Should farmgate price reporting plan extend to beef?

James Nason, 04/10/2011

Parliamentarians Nick Xenophon and Bob Katter have earned plenty of headlines in recent weeks with their push to force major supermarkets to display the prices that farmers are paid for  fresh fruit and vegetables at retail.

The South Australian indendent senator and the Queensland based leader of Katter's Australian Party believe Coles and Woolworths need to explain the large price disparities that exist between farm gate prices and retail prices of produce.

The parliamentarians have introduced a farm gate pricing bill that, if passed by parliament, would force supermarkets to display the average price paid to farmers for fresh food on shelves next to the retail price.

Beef Central asked the two politicians if they also had plans to extend the price-reporting scheme to cover meat sold at retail as well as produce. The answer was one ‘maybe’ and one definite ‘no’.

Nick Xenophon’s office told Beef Central the senator had initially planned to include all farm-produced product in the bill but the complexities of implementing a plan for fruit and vegetables where  little to no-value adding occurs between farm-gate and retail shelf had restricted his initial push to produce alone.

However his spokesperson said the senator still had interest in extending the plan beyond fruit and vegetables, depending on the outcome of this bill.

Mr Katter however says a move to extend the mandatory price reporting for beef would be untenable.

“The proposed legislation to compel supermarkets to display the price growers are paid alongside the retail price could not be simply transferred to beef,” Mr Katter said.

“In layman’s terms, the wholesale sale of beef includes a whole animal, whereas it’s cut up into different parts for retail.

“So it would be like comparing apples and oranges – pardon the pun – to try and compare the price of the whole beast per kg for instance alongside the retail price of a particular cut.”

The peak representative body for cattle producers agrees that introducing a system for beef price reporting would be too complicated.

"Cattle Council in principle supports initiatives that deliver benefits to beef producers,” CCA executive director David Inall said.

“However, including farm gate price information on retail packs is likely to be difficult to administer.

“There are so many variables including the industry's long supply chain, live weight versus over the hooks, different cuts, ground beef, sausages and daily sale price fluctuations.

“We certainly support truth in labelling; however, we would need to assess whether any such requirement on retailers added unnecessary cost into the system, which ultimately gets passed back to producer.

“So the intent is great but it may prove to be too complex to administer.”


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