Varied industry reaction to ACCC criticism

Varied industry reaction to ACCC criticism


Some data not relevant to the producer, says processing body.


RESPONSIBILITY rests with the beef producer to make him or herself aware of the market they are selling into and under what conditions the trade will occur, the processing sector says.

Other data, like prices agreed between processors, wholesalers, retailers and exporters, is not relevant to the producer, according to the peak processing body.

In response to strong criticism from the competition watchdog over a lack of action in terms of improving transparency, the Australian Meat Industry Council has launched it’s own counterattack.

The latest from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Mick Keogh on what he sees as a disappointing level of improvement in the wake of his organisation’s market study into transparency in cattle and beef markets was a continuance of the theme that the processing sector was a significant cause of difficulty in livestock producers maintaining profitability, according to AMIC.

Processors have “always understood that transparency around key market information is vital for competition,” according to AMIC chief executive officer Patrick Hutchinson.

He pointed to cattle and beef production data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Meat and Livestock Australia, carcase quality information through Meat Standards Australia supply chains and MLA’s Livestock Data Link as evidence of the ready availability of such information.

Australia’s peak producer group is also critical of the ACCC work, saying several of its recommendations are simply not practical for industry to implement and would increase regulatory burden.

Cattle Council of Australia president Howard Smith said while competition policy was an avenue in which to ensure that transparency is implemented to the benefit of producers in making decisions for their business, that information “must not risk undermining our international competitiveness.”

“We know that our international trade partners have access to, and have utilised in the past, information published by the domestic industry in negotiations with Australian companies,” said Mr Smith.

“This is a risk to our industry that needs to be managed.”

Breakaway cattle producer groups, however, have a different view and have welcomed Mr Keogh’s criticisms with open arms.

Dr Paul Wright, Cattle Producers Australia chair, said it was pleasing the ACCC had recognised the fact the reform process had stalled.

It was evident current industry organisations were not correctly structured and not capable of accommodating the necessary reforms required by grass-fed cattle levy payers, he said.

The ACCC was clearly surprised at the degree of resistance against their recommendations from the many national industry bodies that represent the interests of some producers, he said.

Under the current structure grassfed cattle levy payers were largely unrepresented in the decision-making process and CPA was seeking to address these shortcomings by mandating every grassfed cattle levy payer has direct input and voting power in an organisation to specifically represent them, he said.

John Gunthorpe, from the Australian Cattle Industry Council, said the Red Meat Advisory Council, which the ACCC claims should no longer have the leadership role in seeing reform implemented, was costing red meat industries significant monies they could ill afford.

“As cattle producers we need to know what prices are being offered and on what  terms,” he said.


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