12 January 2024

'The prices do not stack up!': Riverina MP supports calls for fruit and veg inquiry

| Jarryd Rowley
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Vege prices are soaring but farmers aren't getting paid.

Member for Riverina Michael McCormack has backed calls from farmers to approve an inquiry into fruit and veg costs by the ACCC. Photo: Supplied.

Member for Riverina Michael McCormack has backed calls from farmers to the Government to begin an inquiry on the pricing of fruit and vegetables at supermarkets.

Rising costs and low returns have been a growing point of contention for farmers, especially during the cost-of-living crisis. But, as the new year kicks into gear, some farmers have said enough is enough and have called for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to look into the pricing.

Mr McCormack has thrown his support behind an inquiry, claiming the prices don’t add up.

“I unequivocally support the calls for an ACCC inquiry into fruit and vegetable prices at supermarkets, which we have seen skyrocket amid Labor’s cost-of-living crisis,” Mr McCormack said.

READ ALSO Treasurer is turning his attention to supermarket price gouging

“It’s plainly obvious to anyone shopping at the supermarket that the prices do not stack up.

“Take for instance zucchinis, which farmers sell for as little as $1.80 per kilo, but consumers pay up to $10 per kilo for at the supermarket.”

The calls for an inquiry into fruit and veg pricing come alongside The Nationals’ push for an investigation into the meat market which has recorded “huge discrepancies”.

“We saw lamb prices drop to as little as $1 per head whilst the supermarket prices didn’t budge,” Mr McCormack said.

“Consumers are simply paying too much and farmers aren’t earning enough. There’s a Bermuda Triangle of cash and the ACCC needs to do its due diligence.

“Even more worryingly, it seems the Albanese Government is recklessly and consistently indifferent to the fate of Aussie farmers.”

The Labor Government has begun reviewing the supermarket code of conduct, while a Senate inquiry is also set to examine potential price gouging by the major supermarkets.

Despite this investigation, Mr McCormack continued to call out the Labour Government over its treatment of farmers, believing more can be done to support them.

“In November last year, the government passed changes to the Murray Darling Basin Plan which is seeing 450 gigalitres of water, normally used to produce our food and fibre, stripped away from our farmers.

“On top of this, the Albanese Government’s changes to the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme, which have mandated a minimum of 30 hours of work a week in an industry where work availability varies significantly, is making the scheme unviable for farmers and is increasing labour costs.

“Farmers face a situation in which they are both struggling with increased input costs caused by poor policy of the Labor Government and are, at the same time, being squeezed by the big supermarkets which refuse to pay a fair price for farmers’ produce.

“This is a situation which is both bad for farmers and for ordinary Aussie families which are facing surging power bills and housing prices as part of Labor’s cost-of-living crisis.”

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Mr McCormack said for farmers to continue their important work, fair pay for their product needed to be brought to the table.

“Alarmingly, according to a survey by AusVeg, 30 per cent of vegetable growers are considering leaving the industry this year,” he said.

“When farmers pack up and quit, we get more of our food imported from overseas and rural communities begin to struggle as their primary industries leave.

“The government should be looking at every tool available to ensure both farmers and consumers are being treated fairly by the big supermarkets.

“Taking up The Nationals’ proposal for an ACCC inquiry would be a good first step to support our farmers and consumers.”

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