Community & Business

10 March, 2024

Supermarket prices deemed unfair

A supermarket price gouging report has confirmed that supermarkets are failing to treat farmers and families fairly, overcharging customers and underpaying suppliers.

By Nicholas Croker, Cadet Journalist

Supermarket prices deemed unfair - feature photo

A supermarket price gouging report has confirmed that supermarkets are failing to treat farmers and families fairly, overcharging customers and underpaying suppliers. The Australian Council of Trade Union (ACTU) inquiry led by former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chief Allan Fels found major supermarkets had failed to pass on lower prices to consumers and exercised market power over farmers and other suppliers. He described Australia’s supermarket sector as among the “most concentrated in the world”.

For NSW Farmers president Xavier Martin, the report confirmed the need for meaningful competition reform within the sector. He welcomed the findings of the inquiry, saying “The findings of this inquiry only strengthen our case that serious and intensive reform is necessary within our nation’s supermarket sector if fair prices for farmers and families are to be achieved”.

Mr Martin continued, stating that the ‘staggering’ lack of competition within the sector has enabled supermarkets to exercise unfair power over farmers and suppliers, “leaving them with pitiful prices as profit margins increase. It’s not fair on farmers and it’s hurting families – and action to bring this behaviour to account is long overdue”.

The inquiry found government had failed to pay enough attention to pricing practices by supermarkets, who used ‘profit push' pricing systems to extract huge margins from farmers and consumers. “[Alan] Fels’ report clearly states that supermarkets have continued to drive their own profits up while failing to increase the prices farmers receive for their product at the farm gate,” Mr Martin said.

“The sector has also taken advantage of the lack of competition to exercise their power over consumers in a way that has added even more pressure on Australian households, as they face a cost-of-living crisis and significant inflation. All of this shows that meaningful competition reform must be set in motion – and now – before farmers are forced out of business and families can’t afford to pay their grocery bill.”

Shadow treasurer Angus Taylor agrees. “Prices continue to go up sharply, almost double the target rate. We need to see a government that doesn't just mouth making this a priority, but actually does it.

“Prime Minister said this was going to be a priority last year. It clearly wasn't. It does need to be a priority this year,” he said in an interview with Jayne Azzopardi on the Today Show.

“Australians are proud of their country… they’re proud of our identity. And they want to see us as a united nation. I think that the corporates need to get with the act and recognise that.”

Local residents have been negatively affected by the rapid price increases.

The price of daily necessities such as groceries have spiked rapidly and outpaced the standard wage, not just in Gilgandra but across the country.

“Everyone’s doing it tough nowadays,” commented a local resident.

“With all these prices increases on fuel, and clothes, and bills, and [groceries], it’s getting harder to afford the basics.”

Local businesses have also been hit hard by the spike. Suppliers have been increasing their prices at a similar rate to supermarkets, forcing extra costs onto business owners such as Joanne Buckland, the owner of Koda Café.

“I try to keep my prices down as much as I can, but expenses are huge. Without the volume of customers [Koda] experiences, I’d have to raise them,” she told The Gilgandra Weekly.

“Not a week goes by without hearing about another price increase. Juice has gone up, coffee keeps going up, and eggs are ridiculously expensive now.”

Mrs Buckland’s sentiment is shared by businesses across Gilgandra, and across Australia.

Not all are fortunate enough to be able to turn a profit with current prices, and such, have had little choice but to raise them.

The cost of living has risen annually by an average of five percent since 2021, affecting all Australians, and is projected to continue this trend.


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