opinionAre supermarkets PRICE GOUGING?On the eve of two inquiries into the retail of fresh produce, and with 34 per cent of growers stating they want out as the industry is not viable, we think on supermarkets’ recent billiondollar profits and question where the margin is. Words Stephen Brown, vegetablesWA CEO AS COST of production for fruit and vegetable growers continue to climb and the number of Australian families in financial stress continues to climb, the pressure of supermarkets and their margins continues to be a major focus. With daily access to MarketWest prices and the retail prices at supermarkets, there is no doubt that somewhere in the middle there is a huge margin. In addition to inquiries launched by the ACCC and others over the past two months, the Greens have launched a Senate Inquiry into supermarket price gouging. The Select Committee on Supermarket Prices will inquire into and report on the price-setting practices and market power of major supermarkets. This all sounds like a very promising inquiry that will shed some light on these issues. There is only one MAJOR problem, the final report will not be presented by the Select Committee until May 7, 2024. The ACCC Report to Parliament is not due until June 2024. This means a minimum of six months before the longsuffering fruit and vegetable growers of Australia could even contemplate any improvement or change in current practices, let alone any improvement in profitability in their businesses. Of more concern is the release of the 2022-23 Annual Report of the Independent Reviewer of the Food and Grocery Code. In this report, the reviewer states: “However, despite a wide range of concerns often shared within the industry, the Independent Reviewer received zero official complaints in 2022 and 2023. In fact, barely any reports have been made since his appointment in 2021.” “ … fruit and vegetable suppliers were among the most concerned, with 54 per cent saying they feared damaging their commercial relationship if they raised any issue with retail buyers Why is this? The Report revealed “fruit and vegetable suppliers were among the most concerned, with 54 per cent saying they feared damaging their commercial relationship if they raised any issue with retail buyers”. Does this not tell us all there is something seriously wrong in the fruit and vegetables retail industry?