Ingham’s Group and other chicken processors will be allowed to work together to reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated Victorian stage 4 restrictions on the chicken meat industry, under an urgent interim authorisation granted by the ACCC.
The ACCC has provided conditional interim authorisation to Ingham’s, Turosi, Hazeldene’s Chicken Farm and the Australian Chicken Meat Federation (the representative body for the chicken meat industry) to cooperate on a range of measures relating to their plants, aimed at ensuring sufficient supply of chickens and chicken meat, reducing the extent of any job losses, and managing the impact of the stage 4 COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria on chicken growers and other parts of the supply chain.
For example, the authorisation would allow sharing or coordinating the use of processing capacity, essential staff, facilities and products.
“We recognise that these heightened COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria are requiring many businesses and industries to make significant changes to their operations, and this includes the Victorian chicken meat sector,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said.
“Chicken is a staple of many consumers’ diets. This authorisation should assist the chicken meat sector to implement arrangements that maintain supply and minimise the risk of food shortages during the COVID-19 restrictions.”
“We will be carefully monitoring the conduct of chicken processors under this authorisation, and it is our expectation that any arrangements do not disadvantage chicken growers. This authorisation does not override any contractual obligations processors have with growers,” Mr Keogh said.
“Additionally, our decision will assist the chicken meat industry to make arrangements that keep staff employed who would otherwise have been laid off or adversely impacted by the additional restrictions.”
The authorised conduct does not extend to agreements about the price of goods or services supplied or acquired by chicken processors, and participation is voluntary.
As part of the authorisation, participants will also be required to notify the ACCC about decisions under the authorisation, and provide updates and any information the ACCC requests about conduct occurring under the authorisation.
Ingham’s is seeking final authorisation until 31 December 2020. The ACCC’s interim authorisation will remain in place until the ACCC issues a final determination or revokes the interim authorisation, or Ingham’s withdraws its application.
The ACCC is able to revoke the interim authorisation at any time.
More information, including the ACCC’s statement of reasons, is available at Ingham’s Group Ltd, other chicken processors and the Australian Chicken Meat Federation.
ACCC authorisation provides statutory protection from court action for conduct that might otherwise raise concerns under the competition provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
Section 91 of the Act allows the ACCC to grant interim authorisation when it considers it is appropriate. This allows the parties to engage in the proposed conduct while the ACCC is considering the merits of the substantive application.
Broadly, the ACCC may grant an authorisation when it is satisfied that the public benefit from the conduct outweighs any public detriment. The ACCC may review a decision on interim authorisation at any time, including in response to feedback raised following interim authorisation.