Holes in supermarket defences already exposed

14 February 2024

Statement by Jolyon Burnett, Chair of the NFF Horticulture Council

Within a day of supermarkets lodging their submissions to the Senate inquiry established to review their pricing practices, it’s clear their defences rely more on deflection than fact.

It’s telling that the only evidence to support their claim that it’s supplier costs that have driven up prices and not their profiteering is the number of requests made by suppliers for price increases, not the increased prices they’ve paid to suppliers.

They can field a thousand requests and not pay a cent more and that is the experience of fresh produce growers across the country.

In the middle of the pandemic, during a period of skyrocketing input costs, one of the major supermarkets wrote a letter to suppliers telling them to find savings before asking for a price increase. This is typical of the squeeze they apply to growers on price every day.

And it’s disingenuous that supermarkets would cast doubt on the validity of these cost increase requests for lack of being able to verify supplier costs when increases in the prices of fertiliser, chemicals, labour and transport have been well documented and discussed over recent years.

They are intimately aware of the cost base for the fresh produce industry and don’t need a supplier to open their books to know the impact on production and prices.

The Senate inquiry is just the first of several reviews and inquiries into supermarket practices. So it is disappointing, but perhaps predictable, that their first attempt at a defence fails to shine any light on their pricing practices and attempts to blame the victims.