ACCC Symposium Follow up

By Brian Tessmann, QDO President

Last Tuesday at Dairy Australia Melbourne’s headquarters a follow up meeting after Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce’s Dairy Industry Symposium was underway. This meeting was chaired by Australian Dairy Farmers’ (ADF) and attended by Australian Competition and Consumers Commission’s (ACCC) Rural industries commissioner Mick Keogh, Small Business Ombudsman Craig Lathem and representatives from most dairy processors state dairy farmer’s organisations, including Queensland Dairyfamers’ Organsisation (QDO).

The forum was mainly focused on the issues between dairy farmers and milk processors. This involved discussion on issues such as industry codes including the currently voluntary supermarket code of conduct as well as the use of collective bargaining groups. QDO articulated that as a tool for farmers to enhance their bargaining position, the conditions imposed on these groups by government made that almost impossible to achieve. Under pressure the ACCC did offer that the right to collectively boycott was under consideration to possibly improve their toolkit.

Also discussed were the unfair contract protections the have been extended to farmers and small business. Attending farmers highlighted the measures failings particularly that the maximum contract value cut-off for help made most dairy farmers ineligible.

Many indicated there are issues regarding contracts with domestic processors including exclusivity of supply as well as the offset term of the contracts making it difficult for farmers to potentially shift processors. Domestic farmers and processors agreed that the domestic supply curve needs to be as flat as possible. While some southern farmers are opposing seasonal variation in farm gate price it is a necessary tool for supply in places like Queensland or Western Australia.

The ACCC set out their pathway forward and its link to the Dairy Market Study which is calling for input this November. The overwhelming main issue raised by farmers from most states was the supermarket duopoly domination and generic store brands of $1 milk. It was clear to anyone in the room that the main market wrecker remains $1 milk and it has never been more vital to urgently address.