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ACCC to champion agribusiness supply chain transparency

05 July, 2015

The Australian Government has acted on concerns raised by farmers about supply chain transparency during the consultation phase of the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, said the white paper would commit $11.4 million to establish an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Commissioner dedicated to agriculture as well as supporting capability at the ACCC concerned with agriculture supply chain issues.

"Many stakeholders were concerned with the lack of transparency in supply chains and the anti competitive distortions that can result—all too often to the detriment of our farmers," Minister Joyce said.

"The new Commissioner, combined with the new dedicated agricultural-focus of the ACCC, will give the ACCC additional agricultural skills and knowledge to address the concerns of farmers.

"These new resources will enable ACCC staff to attend the saleyards or visit farmers to see the market in action and gather necessary evidence.

"On top of these measures the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper will deliver $13.8 million to arm farmers with knowledge and materials on alternative business models like cooperatives and collective bargaining.

"Knowledge is power. A strong supply chain advocate, proactive ACCC investigations and information on alternative business structures will go a long way to reducing farmers' vulnerability to the market power that can be wielded by large processors or retail chains.

"These measures, combined with work this government already has in train through our forthcoming response to the Competition Policy Review; the current review of the Horticulture Code of Conduct; and the establishment of the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, show we are serious about ensuring our farmers get a fair deal for their efforts.

"I am proud to deliver measures that go to one of the core themes we heard throughout the 18 month consultation that attracted 1000 submissions and involved face–to–face meetings with 1100 people," said Minister Joyce.

The ACCC has welcomed the Federal Government's decision to provide increased resources to boost its engagement with rural and regional industries, small businesses and consumers.

"The ACCC will prioritise detecting, deterring and taking action against conduct that breaches the Competition and Consumer Act (2010) (CCA) that affects farmers and small businesses in rural and regional areas, particularly cartels, misuse of market power, and misleading or unconscionable conduct," Acting Chair Delia Rickard said.

"The ACCC has long recognised the importance of the agriculture sector to the Australian economy and understands that there are unique and challenging circumstances affecting industry participants. We will continue to promote potential pro-competitive strategies to enhance efficiencies and bolster productivity, such as collective bargaining by regional and rural businesses," Rickard said.