Transparency improving in cattle and beef industry

20 August 2019

Australia’s cattle and beef industry has taken some steps towards improving transparency in dealings between processers and farmers, but more work is needed, the ACCC has noted today.

In 2017, the ACCC published its Cattle and Beef Market Study, which made 15 recommendations to address concerns about a lack of transparency and other issues in Australia’s cattle and beef markets. An update report published in May 2018 reported a disappointing lack of progress on these recommendations.

Following the update report, a number of cattle and beef processors have begun publishing their price grids online. Grids are used to calculate the per kilo price paid to farmers for their cattle.

Easier access to price grids, which would allow farmers to choose the best processor for their own circumstances, was one key recommendation of the ACCC’s study.

The ACCC has also noted that the industry is taking steps to improve objective carcass grading processes. Certain processors are trialling new technologies which are expected to provide greater objectivity and transparency in how meat is graded.

“We are pleased that price grids are now more readily accessible online, which will allow farmers to more easily select the best buyer for their cattle,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said.

“But while these signs of progress are welcome, we continue to receive inquiries from stakeholders which relate to the ACCC’s recommendations. Farmers are especially concerned about the level of information available and objectivity of grading processes. These concerns are similar to those raised with us during our market study.”

The ACCC also continues to hear concerns from farmers about other issues identified in its market study, including a lack of appropriate dispute resolution options in the sector.

The ACCC understands that industry is considering dispute resolution processes as part of broader reforms to the industry’s governance, encouraging stronger internal and third-party arbitration mechanisms.

“We will continue to advocate for action on our recommendations, and for better transparency across Australia’s cattle and beef markets,” Mr Keogh said.

The ACCC inquiry also identified the need for uniform national licencing standards for livestock agents, which are considered important to improve industry compliance with the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and biosecurity requirements. While the industry is supportive of such a proposal, the process of obtaining the support of state governments is not well advanced at this stage.

Finally the ACCC recommended greater transparency in the saleyards, through the adoption of a buyers' register identifying which principals commission buyers are intending to purchase for. There has not been any progress on this issue, which could address the concerns some livestock producers have about saleyard selling.

“The ACCC will continue to engage with the industry and governments on these issues,” Mr Keogh said.

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