The National Party is intensifying demands for an investigation by the consumer watchdog, as farmers warn of shutting down and halting supplies to supermarkets due to price exploitation.
Coles and Woolworths achieved over $1 billion in profits last year, but fruit and vegetable growers are increasingly disheartened, with 30% contemplating exiting the industry.
David Littleproud, the National Party Leader, is urging the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to conduct an inquiry into the fruit and vegetable sector, citing supermarkets’ high profits at the expense of struggling farmers.
Littleproud believes the Senate inquiry into supermarket pricing, approved last month, is insufficient. He argues for a broader ACCC inquiry, including fruit and vegetables, to examine pricing disparities and enforce stricter penalties for unfair practices.
Highlighting the plight of farmers like Ross Marsolino from Victoria, who is considering abandoning his zucchini crop unless prices improve, Littleproud emphasises the urgent need for action.
Shaun Jackson, a melon farmer from Far North Queensland, cautions that Australia could face food shortages as more farmers cease sales to supermarkets.
Agriculture Minister Murray Watt notes that while the government has urged supermarkets not to exploit prices, the Nationals should have addressed this during their tenure. He assures continued pressure on supermarkets through a Senate inquiry.
The government has also initiated a review of the Food and Grocery Code to enhance transparency in supplier payments. The Australian Council of Trade Unions is conducting a separate inquiry into pricing practices.
While the ACCC can independently start an investigation, the government’s direction is crucial. The government supports an ACCC inquiry but questions its additional value compared to existing reviews.
Senator Watt warns supermarkets, noting some price reductions but emphasising the need for more immediate fair pricing.