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AUSVEG submission proposes solutions to grower-retailer power imbalance

AUSVEG is calling for necessary reforms to address supply chain power imbalances that are threatening the viability of Australian vegetable growing businesses, in its submission to the Senate Select Committee on Supermarket Prices.

This comes as a new industry sentiment survey conducted by the peak industry body for Australia's vegetable, potato and onion sectors reveals 37% per cent of growers are considering leaving the industry in the next 12 months – up from 34% mid last year. Input cost increases, poor retail pricing and labour costs are the top three reasons vegetable growers are considering closing their farms.

A lack of certainty in arrangements with retailers in relation to price and volume, disproportionate risk and compliance burden, a lack of negotiating power, asymmetrical information flow and concerns over various behaviours that could be in breach of the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct are among the many issues raised by growers with AUSVEG in the preparation of the submission.

The lack of independent arbitration or other effective recourse actions that address fear of retribution, are also hampering growers' efforts to have their issues resolved.

Unless addressed, these issues will continue to threaten the viability of vegetable growing business, contribute to significant food waste, threaten the availability of fresh produce for Australian consumers, and ultimately drive retail prices higher as growers leave the industry and supply reduces.

"As Australian vegetable growers continue to face livelihood-threatening challenges that are driving the cost of supplying vegetables higher and higher, it is crucial to ensure growers receive fair and sustainable farm-gate prices for their produce," said AUSVEG CEO Micheal Coote.

"Instead, growers tell us they are under more and more pressure from retailers to accept lower and lower prices, and often have few options but to do just that. A major contributing factor is the concentration of market power in the hands of retailers that are often the biggest customer for many vegetable growers.

"With our latest industry survey confirming sentiment is at an all-time low in the sector and getting worse, this inquiry is an opportunity to embrace reforms that support the long-term viability of the vegetable growing businesses that feed the country."

Providing greater certainty for growers in arrangements with retailers, making the Australian Food and Grocery Code of Conduct mandatory, introducing enforceable penalties and fines for breaches, and introduction of a genuinely independent complaints and arbitration mechanism are among the comprehensive set of recommendations put forward in the AUSVEG submission.

AUSVEG has also cautioned against interventions that artificially distort the market, and further disadvantage vegetable growers.

For more information:
Andrew MacDonald
Tel.: +61 03 9882 0277
Mobile: +61 0406 836 330

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