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ACCC Grocery Inquiry looms as ‘toothless tiger’

1 May 2008

A PUBLIC outburst from Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Chair Graeme Samuel that his Inquiry has failed to identify a “smoking gun” over grocery price gouging has left farmers and consumers bewildered by the ACCC’s apparent abrogation of responsibility, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) said today.

“Media comments attributed to Mr Samuel today suggest that he has seriously under-estimated the task required of the ACCC in getting to the bottom of grocery price drivers,” NFF President David Crombie said.

“The ACCC cannot simply hold public hearings in the hope someone will do its job for it. While we share the ACCC’s frustrations, it has broader scope for investigation than simply relying on public hearings.

“It is the ACCC’s job to use its full investigative powers to examine what is happening along the entire supply chain – we can’t be expected to gift wrap it for the ACCC.

“At no stage has the NFF accused retailers of price bullying. Indeed, we did not call for this Inquiry, it was a political pledge by the Rudd Government.

“However, as part of the Inquiry, we have been at great pains to point out that supply chain issues – including processing, packaging, transport and retail – are vital to knowing what is driving up food prices along Australia’s production chain and, thereby, identify areas where a lack of competition is a concern.

“It is only then that the catalysts for grocery price hikes can be reined in.

“Further, while others have engaged in a public slanging match over retail prices, the NFF has maintained that those making specific allegations about price gouging must provide evidence for their claims.

“What we do know is what farmers are paid at the farm-gate and what families pay at the check-out are worlds apart. Our consistent plea to the ACCC has been to get on with investigating the entire supply chain, not just hold public meetings about prices.

“We expect transparency, competition and fairness issues through the complete supply chain investigated by the ACCC to ensure farmers and consumers can have confidence in the efficacy of retail prices or be assured of corrective remedies to address any anti-competitive concerns.

“The ACCC has a job to do. It’s time it got on with a serious in-depth and detailed investigation, instead of looking for scapegoats.”

[ENDS]

Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250.

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