NFF president David Jochinke (Photo: NFF)

April 8, 2024

The National Farmers Federation has welcomed the interim Review of Australia’s Food and Grocery Code released on Monday.

NFF president David Jochinke said the report – by economist and former Labor MP Dr Craig Emerson – backed farmers’ call for the code to be made mandatory and be bolstered with greater penalties for breaches.

“The status quo clearly hasn’t worked for many producers. Farmers have continued to suffer a massive power imbalance, so we support measures to improve transparency and accountability,” Mr Jochinke said.

“Farmers need this stronger protection in negotiations where there is a large number of small producers dealing with a small number of large retailers.

“Clearly the code has not been working as it was intended for many producers and a mandatory requirement provides more certainty and confidence to stakeholders across the supply chain.”

The NFF has also welcomed the recommendation to increase the penalties for non-compliance to up to $10 million, or even higher in some circumstances.

“This should send a strong message to retailers that the code now has teeth,” Mr Jochinke said.

“Likewise, we support the proposal to better protect farmers from commercial retribution.

“It makes sense to monitor commercial decisions by retailer buying teams following a disagreement, and that will help give producers confidence to speak up.

“The code consultation has demonstrated there appears to be behaviour at odds with not only the code, but with what retailers like the public to believe.”

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eastAUSmilk – the industry body representing dairy farmers in Queensland and NSW – has also praised the release of the interim review.

Chair Joe Bradley said the review adopted the two key proposals from eastAUSmilk, ie. that the code must be mandatory, and that it must address the issue of supermarket retaliation against suppliers.

“Without these two changes, the Food and Grocery Code would have remained ineffective and ignored,” Mr Bradley said.

“It is great to see Dr Craig Emerson has moved so quickly to make substantive findings and recommendations.

“Now we call on the government to move with great speed to implement his recommendations. There is no need to wait for his final report before getting to work on implementing his most important recommendations.”

Mr Bradley said that while the Food and Grocery Code affected dairy farmers mostly indirectly, it was very much in their interests  that the relationship between supermarkets and their suppliers was cleaned up.

“It is also very much in the interests of the whole Australian community that the big supermarkets, who have such a powerful influence on everyone’s cost of living, are properly scrutinised and regulated,” he said.

“eastAUSmilk sees this Interim Report as a very solid and timely step towards that scrutiny and regulation – but only one step. Big supermarket margins now have to be examined closely.”

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Member for Maranoa David Littleproud

Nationals leader David Littleproud was less positive about the timing, saying the final report – due on June 30 – was “too far away”.

Mr Littleproud said The Nationals had offered bipartisan support to the government to implement part of these recommendations more than 15 months ago.

And he said broader suggestions in the review would not address all the issues consumers and farmers were facing.

“The Nationals wrote to Labor more than 15 months ago offering bipartisan support, urging Labor to take action on supermarket price gouging,” Mr Littleproud said.

“Instead, Labor allowed families and farmers to be ripped off because it was too focused on a $450 million failed referendum.”

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Opposition Leader Peter Dutton was even more critical, labelling it “a Mickey Mouse review that’s been conducted by a Labor mate with an outcome predetermined by the Treasurer”.

Mr Dutton told reporters on Monday there would be no price relief for consumers because it was Labor policies which had contributed to higher prices at the supermarket.


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