The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), is the body which represents the major food companies in this country, and has just made a submission to the Federal Treasury for consideration in the 2012 Budget.
The AFGC has long been trying to encourage the Federal Government to implement a Supermarket Ombudsman as a major way of starting to reduce the pressure that currently exists on manufacturers due to the lack of competition in the supermarket sector. With Coles and Woolworths controlling around 80 percent of the supermarket sector, there is currently little opportunity for manufacturers to negotiate prices or products. It is believed that a specific Ombudsman will help make trading fair.
This is only part of the submission, there is also a call to develop and then implement a Fair Trading Code of Conduct for the retail sector. The submissions proposes that the Ombudsman be given the jurisdiction of this Code and be able to enforce it with significant fines and penalties. It is suggested that all those retailers with 20 percent of more of their market should implement the Code.
A “Name and Shame” list, like that used by the New South Wales Food Authority for Food Standards Code non compliances, is also suggested for the Ombudsman.
The National Food Plan is being developed currently to provide security to our food supply into the future, and the AFGC submission suggests that this Plan be managed by a Federal Parliamentary Secretary based in the Prime Minister’s Department, to recognise it’s importance. This submission also calls for specific positions and groups to support the ongoing development and maintenance of the National Food Plan.
Another part of the submission is requesting that all changes to regulations at both federal and state / territory level have stakeholder consultation before they are released. Some changes have happened at a State level in recent months that had little consultation with business and this is not giving everyone involved some say. Food Standards Australia New Zealand has a strong consultation process and something similar should be in place for all proposals and submissions to all food law nationally.
With the politics involved in this specific Budget, and the next, there will be a close examination by the Treasury by all submissions, including this by the AFGC.