Summer 2020: Are competition measures delivering farmers a fair go?

Summer 2020: Are competition measures delivering farmers a fair go?


Five years ago, the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper noted ‘a fairer go for farm businesses’ as a priority action area. This year’s AFI John Ralph Essay Competition asked respondents to consider whether current competition measures are delivering that promised ‘fair go’. The submissions covered an intriguing range of ideas and responses, with one clear emergent theme: competition policy in Australia is not serving agriculture well.

Competition measures, malfunctioning markets and the ‘fair go’ provide an almost-endless source of discussion in agricultural economics policy. Stories about power imbalance and monopolistic (or monopsonistic) behaviour invoking the classic David and Goliath battles make for engaging narratives. While there are many examples of poorly functioning markets which have had a significant impact on farming businesses and industries, once the ‘big versus small’ dichotomy is removed and a more dispassionate analysis is performed the topic proves itself wickedly complex.

The two winning essays – Open and Novice categories – bookend this edition of the Farm Policy Journal. Fittingly, the Open category winner for 2020 is Chief Economist and General Manager Trade for the National Farmers’ Federation, Ash Salardini. Novice category winner Michael Wellington is a PhD student at the Australian National University. The AFI congratulates the 2020 winners along with Emma Scholz, Pete Mailler, Alexandra Lobb and Danielle Captain-Webb for their thought-provoking, and sometimes challenging, takes on this byzantine topic.

Competition policy and Australian agriculture have come a long way. It is hard to believe that less than 30 years ago Australian agriculture was subject to anti-competitive market arrangements including statutory marketing boards. National Competition Policy reforms in the mid-1990s and early 2000s dismantled market distortions and Australian agriculture began…
The Australian primary production industry has often been championed as a cornerstone industry in the Australian economy. However, market based competition principles frequently see the industry suffer as unconscionable and unethical practices often result in a race to the bottom at the expense of primary producers. Australia’s identity attempts to…

Related Products

Published 16 Aug 2021

Government policies aimed at addressing risk in Australian agriculture have a long and chequered history. While a range of government programs and schemes intended to improve management of financial risks is available to Australian farmers, there is little evidence to indicate that the majority of past policies can be considered…

Published 21 Jul 2021

‘Regenerative’ farming is gaining attention, particularly of policy makers and not-for-profits who increasingly direct funding to support regenerative agriculture (RA) initiatives. RA practitioners have been referred to as ‘disruptors’ – farmers who introduce new processes, challenging traditional practices and creating new markets. We review the range of practices that could…

Published 21 Jul 2021

As Australia’s fastest growing sector, agri-food is second only to mining in terms of its importance to the national economy. But agri-food has an important decision to make – to what extent it will continue business as usual, exporting untapped value-add potential with every container of raw commodity. Alternatively, it…
Scroll to Top

Sign up for news on AFI research, events and publications