National Food Plan released, supermarket issues to be addressed

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 17th July 2012

The Australian Government today released its National Food Plan green paper.  The aim is to develop Australia’s first national food plan to integrate all aspects of Government food policy and communication of its strategic direction.

Australia’s Agriculture Minister Senator Joe Ludwig said he expected to receive feedback from around Australia including groups such as farmers, consumers and supermarket groups.  “It’s quite diverse and that’s why I wanted to bring together the food plan into a green paper to have that conversation,” he said.

The green paper acknowledges the relationship between supermarkets and suppliers raises concerns for stakeholders.  “Supermarkets are where most Australians buy their food and we need to ensure a fair trading environment for suppliers while keeping prices low for families,” Senator Ludwig said.

The green paper emphasises that the Australian government is committed to providing a robust and effective competition law that protects businesses and consumers from anti-competitive and unconscionable behavior.  The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s ( ACCC) Compliance and Enforcement Policy, published in February 2012, states that competition and consumer issues in highly concentrated sectors, including supermarkets, is an area of high priority.

Noting the two major supermarkets have significant market power, the green paper says that the ACCC is examining concerns about the manner in which the major supermarkets deal with their suppliers.

In addition to the ACCC investigating competition issues, the government will continue to engage with the food industry about relationships in the supply chain.  Possible initiatives include making improvements to current voluntary arrangements, implementing a new mandatory code or possible oversight mechanisms (e.g. an ombudsman). The government will hold a forum to examine these options, taking into account available outcomes of any ACCC investigations.

The green paper can be found here.