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ACCC should ‘enable, not inhibit, competition’: RMAC

Beef Central, May 4, 2018

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) latest update report on its 2017 Cattle and Beef Market Study shows little evidence the competition regulator has listened to industry concerns, the Red Meat Advisory Council (RMAC) said this afternoon

RMAC Independent Chair Don Mackay said the ACCC “should enable not inhibit competition in this country for businesses and consumers.”

“As food producers, food manufacturers and food exporters the Australian red meat and livestock industry supports prosecution of anti-competitive behaviour.”

“We reject commentary from the Agriculture Commissioner that industry lacks understanding of transparency or that transparency does not suit the interests of industry.”

Mr Mackay said RMAC had repeatedly offered to fix problems with the industry where the ACCC could provide evidence.

This included numerous meetings with the ACCC, multiple written commitments and requests for additional information behind the policy rationale to the original Cattle and Beef Market Study; with all letters to the ACCC written remaining unanswered.

“The ACCC has had 12 months to validate some of the assumptions in their Market Study and do a basic fact checking exercise with their own Agriculture Consultative Committee.”

“It is extremely unclear how repeated engagement with the ACCC about market realities within agribusiness supply chains have had any impact.”

“This includes listening to Australian cattle producers who do not accept that on farm sales should be subject to compulsory price reporting.”

“The ACCC even established a hotline late last year for farmers but can’t provide details about the number of complaints from this leading to serious concerns or prosecutions for anticompetitive behaviour.”

The Update Report changes only one Recommendation (14) which takes the responsibility of implementing the Report from RMAC to the Agricultural Ministers Forum (AGMIN).

“We thank the ACCC for rightly handing government led work over to government.”

“Changing responsibility for the ownership of the Market Study does not address the fact that the recommendations are simply not fit-for-purpose.”

Mr Mackay said that the Update Report was a timely reminder in a pre-election year that the focus of governments and their network of regulators is to support and grow the 405,000 Australian jobs and 18 billion GDP contribution that are generated by Australia’s 75,000 red meat and livestock businesses.

“The Australian red meat industry is a supply chain with very slim margins. It is also an industry with higher operating costs as a proportion of revenue than almost all other industries in Australia.”

“The Australian red meat and livestock industry has many market options at every point in the supply chain; and our businesses are growing at a rate of 5 per cent.”

“We suggest both to the Coalition government and the Opposition that the ACCC Agriculture Unit under the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper requires a serious overhaul to better develop policy that reflects market practices that engage the entire supply chain.”

Source: RMAC. RMAC contributed a submission to the Update Report which can be found here.

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