With the high inflation and supply chain disruptions currently impacting many sectors throughout Queensland, it is critical that we continue to strive for a fair playing field for farmers.
Last week, QFF was joined by a number of our members in an engagement session with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). This engagement provided an opportunity to acknowledge improvements that have been made for the agriculture sector, including updates on work currently underway that is relevant to the future prosperity of Queensland’s agricultural industries. It also provided an opportunity to raise concerns about issues currently impacting the state’s production of food, fibre, and foliage.
The ACCC has an important role to play in ensuring fair and competitive trading across agricultural supply chains as farmers continue to be challenged by lack of transparency and unfair power imbalances in many areas of the market.
It is responsible for enforcing compliance with the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 across the agriculture sector, which includes administering several mandatory industry codes, including the horticulture, dairy, sugar, and wheat port codes of conduct. The ACCC also engages with stakeholders across the sector and carries out compliance and enforcement actions as appropriate.
Key infrastructure projects affecting agricultural supply chains provided by only one or a few suppliers where there is limited, or no competition are also regulated by the ACCC.
In February 2016, the government appointed Commissioner Mick Keogh as an ACCC Commissioner and have since built a small team with a designated focus on agricultural matters to provide sector-specific insights at the decision-making level within the ACCC. This continues to be strongly supported by industry.
Queensland’s farming sector is mostly made up of regional, family-run small to medium enterprises. Effective competition policy is therefore critical to prevent these farmers from exploitation by companies with significant market power.
Codes of conduct, regardless of how positive the trading relationship might be, play a critical role in providing both parties with a benchmark of fairness that must be met; helping to create a level playing field for the entire market.
Whilst we have come a long way since the increased investment in agriculture that was made in 2016, there is always more work to be done to ensure agricultural supply chains are competitive, fair and transparent. We must continue to strengthen provisions against unfair trading and, where required, implement additional industry codes. We also need to make significant voluntary codes mandatory, if necessary, to increase price transparency and stamp out bargaining power imbalances which ultimately result in a poor outcome for both farmers and consumers.
QFF calls on the federal government to further expand the resources of the ACCC dedicated to agriculture so that it can continue to work effectively across the sector.