Food Security At Stake In Supermarket Inquiry

Australia will be unable to feed itself and farmers will be driven out of business unless radical action is taken to reform the supermarket retail sector, NSW Farmers has told a Senate Inquiry today.

As a Senate Select Committee investigates the factors driving soaring supermarket prices, NSW Farmers Vice President Rebecca Reardon said ultimately Australia’s food security was at stake, continuing calls for meaningful competition reform until fair prices for farmers and families were achieved.

“It’s farmers – not the supermarkets – who are the real fresh food people, and if the market dominance of these big two supermarkets means farmers struggle to make a living, we could very well see a future where Australia can no longer feed itself,” Mrs Reardon said.

“This would be terrible not only for Australian farmers and for families right across the country, but also for the tens of millions of people overseas who rely on the food we grow and export.

“We can’t afford to miss the opportunity to solve this problem that has been in the ‘too hard’ basket for too long.”

Six recommendations to the inquiry for reforming the supermarket sector were put forward by NSW Farmers ahead of the hearing, which was held at Orange in the state’s central west on Tuesday.

“We have proposed a constructive, considered approach to overhauling the sector, starting with making the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct mandatory and more enforceable with real penalties for its breach,” Mrs Reardon said.

“Increasing price transparency, developing options to add new supermarket competitors, and introducing divestiture powers to correct gross market power imbalances are just some of the other recommendations we have put forward.

“The gross profit margins of supermarkets are only continuing to increase, so there must be controls in place to not only identify any unfair pricing practices, but actually bring these to account.”

As the inquiry continued, Mrs Reardon said significant changes to competition law and policy were essential if effective outcomes for farmers and consumers were to be secured.

“In recent times, we’ve seen governments in Canada and New Zealand drive significant competition reform within their retail sectors – and we must do the same if we want healthy, home-grown food on Australian dinner tables,” Mrs Reardon said.

“Unless there is real and complex reform to how we govern these supermarket superpowers, we will continue to lose farmers and Australia will one day wake up to discover it can no longer feed itself.”

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