THE beef industry looks set to be the subject of another Senate inquiry, this time into the timely issue of meat processor power and practices.
Terms of reference for the inquiry are being drafted and will be presented in the Senate’s next sitting.
In their joint announcement of intention to seek the inquiry, Nationals senators Barry O’Sullivan, John Williams and Bridget McKenzie said they wanted to investigate “collusion of buyers, market powers, pre and post-sale weighing and other aspects”.
Senator O’Sullivan said concentration of foreign ownership in the processing sector and ongoing producer concerns about potential market imbalances in the beef supply chain justified the inquiry.
“There were a lot of questions raised about farmgate profitability and price transparency during the recent Senate Inquiry into grassfed beef levies,” Senator O’Sullivan said.
“We must ensure the underlying structures of our beef sector remain strong”
“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 beef producers have been challenged by drought, the high dollar, low commodity prices and the live exports ban. They need certainty that they aren’t also dealing with an uneven post-farmgate playing field.
“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 McKenzie said.
Senator Williams expressed disappointment with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) decision to allow JBS to buy Primo’s Hunter Valley meat processing business.
He believes that competition laws should be reviewed to prevent similar decisions occurring in 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.”
The senators hope that the inquiry will be given Senate approval within a fortnight.