Chicken processors have been given permission to combine their market supply efforts until January to reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and processing restrictions in Victoria.
An urgent interim authorisation granted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has given poultry producers Ingham's, Turosi, and Hazeldene's Chicken Farm approval to co-operate on various aspects relating to their Victorian plants.
Peak industry body the Australian Chicken Meat Federation will also be involved to assist processors to work together in the state, or involve the companies' interstate plants, if required.
Notably, the ACCC has given the green light to processors sharing or co-ordinating the use of their respective processing plants, essential staff, facilities and products to keep up with consumer demand.
Usually competition rules are enforced to prevent market collusion, but the relaxed conditions have been allowed to ensure sufficient supplies of chicken meat are available to shoppers.
Major processor Ingham's made initial approaches to the ACCC to help it cope with labour restrictions at its plants in Thomastown in Melbourne and Somerville on the Mornington Peninsula.
The ACCC said it recognised the need to avoid compounding the extent of job losses and manage the impact of the stage 4 coronavirus restrictions in Victoria on chicken growers and other parts of the supply chain.
"We recognise that heightened COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria require many businesses and industries to make significant changes to their operations, including the chicken meat sector," ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said.
"Chicken is a staple of many consumers' diets.
"This authorisation should assist the chicken meat sector to implement arrangements that maintain supply and minimise the risk of food shortages during the COVID-19 restrictions.
"Our decision will also assist the chicken meat industry to make arrangements that keep staff employed who would otherwise have been laid off or adversely impacted by the additional restrictions."
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The special conditions will expire on December 31.
In the meantime the competition regulator would carefully monitor the conduct of chicken processors under this authorisation, and it expected any temporary arrangements would not disadvantage chicken growers.
"This authorisation does not override any contractual obligations processors have with growers," Mr Keogh said.
The temporary arrangements did not overrule agreements about the price of goods or services supplied or acquired by chicken processors, and participation was voluntary.
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