Your chance to tell the ACCC

By Brian Tessmann, QDO President

Farmers often tell me how much they’d like to give the Australian Competition Consumer commission (ACCC) and the Government ‘a piece of their mind’. Well, for farmers in southern Queensland, you now get that chance. The ACCC Dairy Inquiry into competition and market fairness in the dairy supply chain is giving individual farmers the opportunity to have their say at a public forum being held 11.30am, Monday 6th February 2017 at the Toowoomba Golf Club. 

This ACCC inquiry is one of a number of investigations into the dairy industry that will hopefully deliver the much needed changes required to the disproportionate levels of market power in the industry. In fact, as I write this I am also preparing to appear at the senate committee inquiry on behalf of Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) inquiry being convened in Brisbane.

The major issues that need to be raised at all inquiries are the continued strangle hold and abuse of market power by the large retailers and the fairness and equity outlined in all contracts between processors, retailer and farmers. In particular scrutiny should be applied to how prices are determined alongside supply conditions imposed as part of milk supply contracts. QDO in particular takes exception to the inequitable power imbalance that is created through the exclusivity clauses and processors ability to alter prices every six months without re-negotiations.

At the end of the day, as with all inquiries and investigations, we have assurances that there will be a number of findings and recommendations. What we cannot assure on however is that the governments will listen to its own investigations and to act on them. Even though Agriculture Commissioner Mick Keogh has assured us that ‘this is different to the others’ and that the ‘ACCC inquiry has teeth’, time will have to tell.

All we can do as farmers is get out in force and make sure our voices and opinions are listened to when the ACCC comes to town and make sure the message is clear on what is broken and how to fix it.