CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA — Investigations into supply chains, regional workshops and advocacy will be key parts of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) increased focus on agriculture, Rod Sims, ACCC chairman said on March 2 at the ABARES Outlook Conference in Canberra, Australia.

Sims said agriculture issues will be a priority for the ACCC, with new Agriculture Commissioner Mick Keogh working closely with a dedicated Agriculture Enforcement and Engagement Unit.

“The unit will allow us to build our internal knowledge around the complexities of agriculture supply chains. This will inform the analysis, and ultimately the decision-making, of the ACCC,” Sims said. “The new unit will focus on investigating potential breaches of the Competition and Consumer Act and, where appropriate, taking enforcement action; increased engagement with the agriculture sector; and advocacy on agriculture issues, including through the use of market studies.”

Sims said the ACCC intends to focus enforcement activities on agricultural supply chains to address anti-competitive conduct or unfair trading practices taking place that breach the act.

“It is important to understand that the act guides our enforcement action. What some may perceive to be anti-competitive conduct or unfair trading may not be a breach of the law,” he said

To help clear up any misunderstandings, Sims said the ACCC is looking to increase engagement with farmers and other agriculture businesses to ensure they are aware of both their rights and obligations under the law.

“Our new Agriculture Unit will enable the ACCC to have a far greater presence in regional Australia…we will hold a series of workshops to speak with farmers and agribusinesses about how competition and fair-trading issues affect them,” he said.

Sims said market studies would form part of the ACCC’s advocacy work in agriculture.

“These studies will enable the ACCC to improve transparency about how a market operates, by shining a light on particular agricultural supply chains and commercial processes which were not previously well known,” he said. “I believe the ACCC, and the wider community, will gain great insights in relation to the working of agricultural supply chains from these studies.”

The ACCC would continue work in regulating water and wheat ports, administering the Horticulture Code of Conduct, assessing mergers and strengthening the position of growers through collective bargaining, he said.