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Saturday, 05 May 2018 12:26

ACCC should 'enable not inhibit' – RMAC

The Red Meat Advisory Council has criticised the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's Update Report on the Cattle and Beef Market Study released on May 4. 

Independent chair of RMAC, Don Mackay, said the update report showed little evidence of the ACCC listening to industry's concerns. 

"The ACCC should enable not inhibit competition in this country for businesses and consumers," he said.

"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."

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

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

"The ACCC has had 12 months to validate some of the assumptions in its market study and to do basic fact-checking with its own agriculture consultative committee," Don Mackay said.

"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. 

“We thank the ACCC for 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." 

Don Mackay said that the update report was a timely reminder in a pre-election year that the focus of governments and regulators was 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," he said.

"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 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." 

 

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