Impending consumer data rights will force the hand of meat processors to give farmers more information about the stock they send for slaughter.
This is according to Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) deputy chairman Mick Keogh, who said the new legislation, which came into effect in November, would be key to overcoming processors’ reluctance to implement the ACCC’s cattle and beef market study recommendations.
Mr Keogh told the Australian Livestock Saleyards Association conference, in Melbourne, the legislation would give consumers greater rights over how their data was used and shared.
“The initial focus is on the banking, health and insurance sectors. Not too far down the track the focus will turn to the agricultural sector,” Mr Keogh said.
The Federal Government is set to introduce consumer data rights to give Australians greater control over their data.
“If that slaughter data is linked to (data) that is owned by a person, they have the right to demand that information and get access to it,” Mr Keogh said.
Some sections of industry had agreed it would be best to agree on a protocol on how it should work, he said.
“Industry needs to be careful - there is bigger forces at work that may, in fact, force their hand in relation to those sorts of issues,” Mr Keogh said.
He said a review of the ACCC inquiry recommendations, earlier this year, had shown some processors were reluctant to take up its recommendations.
The ACCC noted Meat and Livestock Australia had dramatically improved its market reporting systems, making it much easier to access and compare information.
Some processors had also started to make their price grids more readily accessible, while there had also been continuing developments in implementing Objective Carcase Measurements, through such technology such as DEXA.
But Mr Keogh said while Teys was pushing DEXA technology, the approach of some the other processors was “interesting’
He said they were investing in the technology, but were much less open about the extent to which they were going to push it.
In other areas, little progress had been made and there was limited enthusiasm by industry leaders to bring about further reforms.
“Further improvements have been restricted by the unwillingness of processors and other major cattle buyers to provide relevant market information,” Mr Keogh said.
There had been little or no progress on recommendations, which required cooperation between supply chain participants.
“The ACCC’s view is that much of the inaction appears to relate to entrenched industry positions and roles, a desire to keep the market opaque, and a lack of bargaining power by producers,” Mr Keogh said.
A common theme arising from the ACCC’s consultation for the progress report was that the industry wished to see concrete supporting evidence of its recommendations, before taking steps to implement them.
“This suggests that the value of market transparency, and the relevance of our recommendations, is either not well understood or does not suit the interests of those industry participants who are in a position to improve it,” Mr Keogh said.
“The better informed producers are in making production and investment decisions, the more productive cattle markets will be.”