Supermarkets still in denial about unconscionable behaviour

Despite two days of intense questioning in Canberra, including a grilling for each of Bunnings, Coles and Woolworths, the supermarkets and big box stores still appear to be in denial about their behaviour and the loss of public trust and support.

NFF Horticulture Council Chair Jolyon Burnett said the pressure needed to be kept up if the right outcomes are to be secured for the Australian public and farming sector.

“The Senate Select Committee inquiry into supermarket price gouging has been a revealing and at times alarming window into supermarket behaviour. But the Australian public is only just getting an understanding of the true nature of price gouging and the poor treatment of fresh produce and other suppliers,” said Mr Burnett.

“We expect more to be unveiled through the ongoing ACCC inquiry into supermarkets that will only conclude next year, and we look forward to a final report in a few months from Craig Emerson on what changes might be made to the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct to help create a fairer and more transparent trading environment.

“When this inquiry inevitably moves on, where supermarkets and big box stores would otherwise be left again to their own devices, we need farmers and consumers to remain vigilant in spotting instances of price gouging. We do not want a repeat of the inaction on the big banks.

“Today while CEOs are fielding questions about their poor practices, Australian avocado growers are getting offered an average of only 78 cents per piece while they retail in store at $1.50.

“At this sale price, growers are not making back their cost of production while the supermarkets are taking a 48 per cent margin.

“This farmgate price is unsustainable for growers. While the retail price doubly frustrating because consumers are not benefiting from a lower price and as a result creating stronger demand.

“It is hugely disappointing, despite all the scrutiny and community interest, that it is still avocado growers feeling the pinch and not the supermarkets.

“This is surely a signal that the Australian Government must put in place mechanisms that deliver long lasting competitiveness, transparency and efficiency in fresh produce retailing or risk this being another reform opportunity lost.”

The NFF Horticulture Council emphasises the need for meaningful change and increased protections for the horticulture sector, including:

  • Create a standalone policy to protect horticulture sector.
  • Ensuring Bunnings is accountable to a Code of Conduct.
  • Provide meaningful powers and resources to the ACCC to be able to do their job effectively.
  • Introduce measure to manage the market power of existing duopolies.
  • Ensure supermarkets behave ethically.

About the Horticulture Council

The Council is the recognised peak body for forming policy and advocating on behalf of the national horticulture industry. Established in 2017, it now comprises 21 national commodity and state-based horticulture bodies.

It is a member of the National Farmers’ Federation, free to establish and advance its own policy positions and responses to issues impacting the horticulture industry.

/Public Release. View in full here.