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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has announced a three-month inquiry into bargaining power in supply chains for perishable agricultural products including fresh produce.

The inquiry, requested by the federal government, will take a broad look at trading practices throughout supply chains, including the relationships between farmers, processors and retailers.

It is set to examine whether any potential bargaining power imbalances in these relationships can adversely impact the efficient operation of these markets and the extent to which they can be addressed through existing regulatory arrangements.

The ACCC will also regard the interests of Australian consumers and how these imbalances can affect them.

David Littleproud, minister for agriculture, drought and emergency management, said the inquiry would identify problems and recommend policy options – including a possible all-encompassing Agricultural Code – if appropriate.

“Australian farmers take considerable risks and work incredibly hard to grow the fresh and affordable food we all take for granted,” Littileproud said.

“But there are concerns that once farm produce is harvested or processed and sent off to market, producers have little bargaining power and are at the mercy of the powerful supermarkets when it comes to the price they are paid.

“I strongly encourage farmers and other businesses across the supply chain to take this opportunity, while it’s available, and contribute to this important inquiry.”