The last beef grid I received from my local abattoir had a 50 cent reduction on most descriptions.
Weather, supply and international markets played a role.
However, it is a salient reminder that most agricultural producers are price takers, not makers. We really have one response option in the relationship with the rest of the supply chain, and that is to withdraw supply.
In this jungle, one piece of legislation is supposed to protect us from being slaves in food supply chains dominated by "oh so few" corporates.
That legislation is now called the Competition and Consumer Act.
It used to be called the Trade Practices Act, and I suspect Orwell may have had a hand in the name change because, up to now, it has been useless in promoting competition and hopeless in delivering for the consumer.
Since the almost total deregulation of the agricultural statutory authorities, there has been blind faith that markets will efficiently fill the void.
This laissez-faire approach to competition has cruelled investment in the producing sector and subsequently poleaxed productivity. Even the Greens are discussing the nexus between competition and food prices.
I have to say, to me, the proliferation of "codes of practice" demonstrates market dysfunction.
Historically, if a company retrospectively changed the price of milk after a contract was signed, the issue would be solved by the company's reputation being trashed.
Of course, it is impossible to say "no" when there is nowhere else to go.
Some green shoots of possibility are emerging concerning reforming the Competition and Consumer Act.
Both Rod Simms and the incoming chair of the ACCC, Gina Cass-Gottlieb, have lobbied the government for more powers concerning assessing takeovers, Section 50 of the Trade Practices Act.
The powers would enable the ACCC to take a more holistic approach to assessing the impact of a merger on competition.
Large corporates that are horizontally and vertically integrated will have, creeping acquisitions of parts of the supply chain more critically assessed.
I applaud this potential reform, as action in this space is long overdue and may, in some part, see innovative disrupters successfully enter the supply chain.
The politics and history of this issue are interesting. In my many meetings with politicians over a fairly long agri-political career, I only found two people I considered "got it".
One was Barnaby Joyce and the other was former state Labor leader Jodi McKay.
The Albanese government has Andrew Leigh, who has written and spoken on reforms to competition policy and appears to "get it".
So, it may be the case that we get some sensible reforms to return balance to food supply chains. It's about time!
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