AUSTRALIA'S National Competition Policy (NCP) has failed to deliver outcomes within food supply chains expected of a competitive market.
Competition across the Australian economy has generally been positive through increased efficiencies, lower prices and new products and services. However, this success has not been replicated everywhere and has damaged farmers and consumers.
The monopsony-like (buyer) power of supermarkets and processors has been left unchecked. The Australian grocery market is the world's most concentrated.
Lack of competition has allowed those with power to extract unreasonable economic surplus, hollowed out food supply chains, and reduced investment in efficiency-enhancing measures.
The government sold the ag sector's deregulation on the promise growers would gain access to free and competitive global markets. This promise has been broken.
International agricultural markets are defined by protectionism.
Dairy markets in the European Union, the US, and Canada all employ import quotas and direct and indirect subsidies. This leaves Australian farmers in a global fight with one arm tied behind their backs.
A torturous system in the World Trade Organisation for addressing dumping of produce doesn't help. Farmers don't reject competition on principle; they reject the lack of real competition.
We need NCP reform to give farmers a fighting chance.
NSW Farmers is this week launching the Competition Policy & Food Supply Chains report to highlight required changes, including a review of unconscionable conduct provisions to enable farmers and small businesses to challenge the undue power of a monopsony, the inclusion of a fairness principle within the NCP to guide regulator and judicial decision-making, and the introduction of a no-cost-order for small enterprises who initiate bona fide legal proceedings on a competition matter.
James Jackson, NSW Farmers president.