THE Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is looking into sheep meat marketing issues raised during the recent cattle and beef market study.
An ACCC spokesman said the recent market study and submissions to it were focused on the cattle and beef industry, but the commission received a small number of enquiries about sheep industry matters and was following these up.
“We are not able to provide perspectives at the same level as in the cattle and beef industry, but there are a lot of similarities between the industry, such as the profile of the major buyers, the sales channels and issues associated with them, such as the concerns about conduct in saleyards, grading and pricing transparency.”
The ACCC has not yet been approached by anyone or an organisation in the sheep sector to undertake a new inquiry into competition issues in the sheep industry.
“However, as noted above, we are looking into discrete issues which have been brought to our attention.
“These considerations are at an early stage and it’s not possible to predict where our assessment will land,” the ACCC spokesman said.
WAFarmers claims creation of unfair competitive environments
WAFarmers Livestock Section president John Wallace said the federation believed the consolidation of corporate structures operating within the sheep meat value chain could be creating unfair competitive environments.
“So this may be an aspect that the ACCC could consider looking at,” he said.
Mr Wallace said the issue of V. and V. Walsh buying and supplying lambs for the two major supermarkets was discussed at length by the industry as part of the ACCC’s inquiry into the cattle and beef supply chain, “as it is a concern to sheep producers in Western Australia, and the WAFarmers Livestock Council.”
Mr Wallace said WAFarmers is open to any suggestions as to it can ensure a fair long term price for Western Australian lamb, mutton and skins.
“We recognise that this could include an inquiry into the sheep marketing structure, if this is what the Western Australian and Australian industries would like.
“However, we would want to be assured that the findings from the study would be translated into action that would ensure a fair long term price for WA sheep producers,” he said.
“WAFarmers is in consultation with politicians and industry to work through this issue and develop strategies to get greater long term returns for WA sheep producers, so the suggestion to conduct a study might be broached during these discussions.
“WAFarmers welcomed the interim report from the ACCC into the beef and cattle sector, as it will benefit producers who are part of this $11 billion sector, and would welcome opportunity for consultation with the ACCC on improvements and recommendations.”
ACCC cattle and beef study identified cartel conduct concerns
The ACCC’s interim report on its cattle and beef market study identified serious shortcomings in current price reporting and the independence and auditing of carcase grading, and concerns about cartel and other conduct affecting competition in saleyard auctions.
The ACCC is also investigating alleged anti-competitive conduct in saleyards and has said it will continue to monitor concerns about collective behaviour by cattle buyers, including cattle purchasing boycotts designed to alter industry practices, and concerted practices in cattle acquisition markets.
Former WAFarmers president Dale Park said earlier this week he would be taking up the issue of competition in the WA sheep meat market with WAFarmers, but also believed the ACCC should undertake a national market study into the lamb and mutton sector.
“Calling for an inquiry into the sheep market wouldn’t be out of place.”
Mr Park attended an ACCC beef and cattle market study consultation forum in Bunbury in July this year and told it he believed WA processor V. and V. Walsh bought and supplied lambs for the two major supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths.
“I would have thought that would be cause for concern.
“I have said to the ACCC that we should be looking at both (cattle and sheep) ….. we’ve got a problem in both industries and in this state in particular, because V. and V. Walsh are buying for both supermarkets, it is more of a problem,” he said.
“I think we do need to look at the sheep industry.”