ACCC to shake up Australian meat industry

Posted by Andrea Hogan on 8th March 2017

Changes are needed to improve transparency and competitiveness in Australia’s cattle and beef markets, says the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The ACCC has just released the results of its market study into Australia’s cattle and beef industry, saying it found shortcomings in price reporting, a lack of trust in the carcase grading system and concerns about anti-competitive conduct affecting completion in cattle and beef sales.

Following a period of consultation with all stakeholders in all parts of the supply chain and analysing and industry data, the ACCC has identified issues that need to be addressed to improve competition in domestic supply chain.

After consulting with all parts of the supply chain and analysing and industry data, Chairman of the ACCC, Rod Sims, said there are issues which need to be addressed to improve competition along the domestic supply chain.

“The final report makes 15 recommendations, which we believe will improve transparency, competition and efficiency in the industry,” the ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

ACCC recommendations for Australia’s beef and cattle industry

The ACCC’s 15 recommendations include:

  1. All processors and other major purchasers of prime cattle should make their price grids publicly available in a timely manner.
  2. Buyers, agents and producer representative bodies (led by the Cattle Council) should expand their engagement with producers to enhance industry understanding of price grids and their interpretation.
  3. All buyers should simplify their price grids, where possible, to ensure they are easy to interpret and compare.
  4. Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) should continue its work to improve the collection and public reporting of cattle sale prices, including: reporting cattle prices across sales channels on the same basis so that indicative prices for each channel are easily comparable b. making improvements to the reporting of prices throughout the supply chain, including wholesale, retail and export beef prices
  5. Data collection and reporting should be expanded to cover prices paid for: direct (paddock) sales b. OTH sales, noting that some processors pay prices over and above those quoted on their price grids, and c. cattle sold to the live export market.
  6. The introduction of objective carcase measurement technology should be prioritised by the industry and adopted by all processors in a consistent manner as soon as possible.
  7. Data produced from objective carcase measurements should be shared for the benefit of the industry
  8. The Red Meat Advisory Council should develop a uniform and independent complaints and dispute resolution process.
  9. The carcase grading and auditing system should be strengthened by: increased communication and education about the process by AUS-MEAT and processors b. increasing the number of random AUS-MEAT audits of grading results and standard trim c. publication of audit results relating to grading and standard trim.
  10. Carcase feedback should be clear and easy to interpret. To achieve this: All buyers and agents who routinely deliver carcase grading feedback to cattle producers should ensure it is presented in a clear manner. b. Buyers and agents, who routinely deliver carcase grading feedback, along with producer representative bodies (led by the Cattle Council) should increase their communication and education activities about interpreting grading feedback.
  11. A mandatory Buyers Register should be publicly available prior to the commencement of all physical livestock auctions.
  12. . Saleyards, commission buyers, auctioneers and agents should provide MLA with information that enables regular standardised market reports for each reported saleyard.
  13. Selling agents should display the terms of auction in a conspicuous position at all saleyards.
  14. Legislation should be introduced requiring standardised national licensing of livestock agents, professional buyers (applying to commission and salaried buyers) and livestock auctioneers.
  15. The Red Meat Advisory Council should have prime responsibility for overseeing the implementation of the above recommendations, and for monitoring compliance with these. The Red Meat Advisory Council should report progress annually to state, territory and federal Ministers.

Entire industry needs to take responsibility for changes says ACCC

ACCC Commissioner, Mick Keogh, said there is a need for the entire industry to take responsibility for implementing the recommended changes.

“Therefore the ACCC recommends that the Red Meat Advisory Council assume responsibility for implementing the recommendations,” Keogh said.

Concern over anti-competitive conduct arises out of study

The ACCC said it was concerned about suggestions of anti-competitive conduct that emerged during the market study.

“The ACCC takes allegations of this nature very seriously and we are currently assessing if there are any breaches of the law,” Chairman Sims said.

“Misconduct in the agriculture sector is an enforcement priority area for the ACCC this year and if we find substance to these allegations, we won’t hesitate to take action,” he stated.

Progress made since interim report

The ACCC welcomed progress made since it released its interim market report with industry group, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) updating online market reports and moves being made to introduce objective carcase measurement technology.

The cattle and beef industry market study was first launched in April 2016, driven by issues raised through prior ACCC investigation and the Senate Inquiry into the effect of market consolidation on the red meat processing sector.


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