Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Queensland Senator Susan McDonald has slammed Coles for slashing its meat prices, fearing it could send graziers down the same path as dairy farmers.

Coles this week cut its mince prices by 20%, sparking outrage from private butchers already struggling with customer numbers amid coronavirus lockdowns.

They fear Woolworths will quickly follow suit.

Senator McDonald said big supermarkets had form for treating suppliers unethically and is concerned heavily discounted meat could be a precursor to the situation faced by dairy farmers who have struggled to be paid fair prices amid a milk discounting war.

“The ACCC provided supermarkets with a lot of leeway when they struggled to ensure supplies of essentials during the recent run on groceries,” she said.

“But as that passes, it is critical that supermarkets don’t undermine farmers in the process.

“I warn the supermarkets that the leniency provided by the ACCC on supply chain issues as we move through the coronavirus crisis did not provide free rein for slashing payments made to meat, fruit and vegetable farmers as they did with dairy.

“Australians know that a secure food supply chain is critical but the latest round of meat discounting smacks of opportunism and market manipulation.”

Senator McDonald added that private butchers had worked extremely hard to fill the void left by supermarket meat shortages, but now they were being hung out to dry.

“Butchers who solved the very real problem of being able to handle meat shortages during the panic buying crisis are now caught in the crosshairs of supermarkets exercising their massive market power,” she said.

“The losers here are small businesses, farmers, and in the long run, consumers who think they’re getting a good deal up until there are no suppliers left, as we’re seeing with dairy.

“The question must be asked, do the big supermarkets intend to do to meat what they’ve already done to the dairy industry?”

Meanwhile, Senator McDonald has urged people to go to her Facebook page and alert her to supply issues in regional Queensland supermarkets.

“Some stores are doing very well at maintaining supplies for regional, rural and remote customers, and others are not,” she said.

“If people can alert me to shortages of staples such as pasta, rice, toilet paper and tinned tomatoes I will raise this with the supermarkets in question.

“People in the regions are posting about shortages of goods and I will be taking that back to supermarkets.”