Nationals Senators answer call for red meat processing inquiry

10 March 2015

10 March 2015 Calls by farming groups for an inquiry into aspects of the red meat processing industry have won the support of Nationals Senators Barry O’Sullivan, John Williams and Bridget McKenzie. As producers in Victoria express concern at the saleyards boycott by buyers several weeks ago and producers in New South Wales see another buyer about to exit the market through the takeover of Primo, Senators O’Sullivan, Williams and McKenzie said it is time to bring the issue into the public domain. Terms of Reference for a Senate Inquiry are currently being drafted, which will cover collusion of buyers, market powers, pre and post-sale weighing and other aspects. It is expected the Senate Inquiry could be approved by parliament as soon as the next sitting fortnight. Senator O’Sullivan said the concentration of foreign ownership in the processing sector and ongoing producer concerns about potential market imbalances in the beef supply chain justified a Senate inquiry. “There were a lot of questions raised about farm gate profitability and price transparency during the recent Senate Inquiry into grass fed beef levies,” Senator O’Sullivan said. “I have also travelled extensively through Western Queensland since becoming a Senator last year and many producers have expressed ongoing concern over the market powers of the processing sector. “These Senator inquiries are important to take a closer look at our beef industry and determine the steps we need to go forward. “We must ensure the underlying structures of our beef sector remain strong.” Senator McKenzie said there should be a level playing field across the supply chain. “As if drought, the high dollar, low commodity prices and the live exports ban has not been enough to battle through, now they are being knocked down again,” Senator McKenzie said. “The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is investigating the buyer boycott at Barnawartha saleyards earlier this month – an action that has led to allegations that processors are mistreating farmers. “No-one can explain to a cattle producer why his returns are diminishing yet in the supermarket the retail price for beef has continued to rise upwards of $16 a kilo.” Senator Williams said he was disappointed with the JBS /Primo result last week. He added that current competition laws needed to be reviewed to stop similar occurrences into the future. “Producers and those in the livestock industry are adamant this will reduce competition,” Senator Williams said. “I am extremely concerned at the buyers boycott in Victoria and glad the ACCC is investigating if any laws were broken. “An inquiry into the red meat processing industry will explore many issues because producers should not be battered from pillar to post.”