21 December, 2023
Beef price inquiry welcomed
A LOCAL cattleman is welcoming a Senate Inquiry into Coles and Woolworths amid growing concerns about the disparity between the price consumers pay for meat at supermarkets and the earnings farmers receive for their livestock.
Mt Carbine’s Karma Waters Station owner Alan Pedersen has struggled to make profits this year, with cattle prices plummeting by up to 60%, while the price tag in the supermarket skyrockets.
The situation prompted The Greens to initiate the Senate inquiry, calling out Coles and Woolworths for “price gouging” consumers and producers.
Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said Australian farmers and consumers deserved better and hoped the inquiry would help to even out the playing field for all.
“It doesn’t pass the pub test that Australians are paying so much more for meat at the supermarket than farmers are getting for their livestock,” he said.
“I've been making clear for months now that the retailers should start dropping their prices – we’ve seen some improvement, but more is needed.
“We know lower prices can take some time to filter from the farm gate to the checkout as long-term supply contracts wrap up, but supermarkets need to be more transparent.
“I want to see this supermarket inquiry apply pressure to the big supermarkets.”
Minister Watt urged the supermarkets to be more transparent about their pricing structures, noting that while lower prices may take time to reach consumers, immediate action from the retailers is essential.
“The government has also already started a review into the ACCC’s Food and Grocery Code, which focuses on increasing transparency on what supermarkets are paying their suppliers so that everyone – suppliers and consumers - get a fairer deal,” he said.
“But the supermarket chains shouldn’t wait for these measures to happen. They should offer fair prices on their shelves immediately.”
Mr Pedersen echoed Minister Watt's sentiments, highlighting the need for transparency in the food supply chain.
He acknowledged the high costs of processing across Australia but said it was the government’s responsibility to take the blame.
“I think most of us just want to see some transparency in the food chain. We realise there are set costs associated with processing, with Australia having one of the highest processing costs in the world,” he said.
“Governments must also take some of the blame for high costs as around 27% of manufacturing costs are government charges.
“We don’t want to see governments interfering in the free market, but when the competition is down to three or four processors and two major supermarkets, price manipulation is becoming commonplace.”
Mr Pedersen proposed establishing a floor price for beef based on a percentage of the world price, considering that a significant portion of Australian beef is exported.
As the Senate inquiry unfolds, the spotlight is on Coles and Woolworths to address the concerns of Minister Watt and industry stakeholders, hoping that increased transparency and fair pricing will benefit both consumers and farmers alike.