Another day, another victim of the supermarket duopoly: Anzac maker collapses

It’s a sad day for a traditional Australian treats, and for Australian jobs, with an Anzac biscuit manufacturer appointing administrators and putting 170 jobs at stake.

Lawler Draper Dillon were yesterday appointed as the administrators of the Unibic company, after attempts by owners, the Quinn family, failed to secure a new investor.

Creditors recently began legal action on the company, after it failed to pay labour hire and ingredients bills.

Labour hire company Labourpower Recruitment asked in the Federal Court for Unibic to be wound up.

The 170 staff at the northern Melbourbe Unibic factory are being informed of the company’s collapse today.

Unibic is the latest in the line of Australian food and beverage companies that are failing as a result of the supermarket duopoly and the predatory practices that come along with it.

Australia’s largest milk processor, Lion, recorded a loss this year, a direct result of the milk price wars, when Coles slashed the price of its private label milk to $1 a litre a year ago and Woolworths quickly followed suit.

Despite a Senate Inquiry and an investigation by consumer watchdog the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Coles was cleared of any wrongdoing in the case.

Australian Dairy Farmers Association President Chris Griffin told Food Magazine this morning the industry will continue to suffer as a result of the milk prices.

“We know there’s been at least 30 leave the industry in Queensland alone, and the majority are sighting the uncertainty of milk prices as the reason.”

There is yet to be a similar inquiry into Coles’ decision to halve the price of fresh produce, but Simon Coburn from AusVeg told Food Magazine the continuous predatory pricing will leave Australia without a food industry to fall back on.

“The industry will die off, probably not slowly, and imports will start flooding the market,” he said.

“So we face more imports and lose our identity and in the end the consumer will pay the same if not higher and we won’t have an Australian industry to fall back on.”

Late last month the ACCC called on companies and individuals to dob in the dodgy practices of the major supermarkets, who are accused of slashing prices and letting companies and farmers absorb the costs, and removing products from shelves in favour of their own private label versions.

But Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) National Secretary of the Food and Confectionary division, told Food Magazine companies are too scared to speak up about what is happening, because Coles and Woolworths hold too much power.

“In the case of the duopoly of Coles and Woollies, the anti-competitive practices that go on are appalling, their behaviour is disgraceful and the ACCC needs to have more power to deal with it,” she said

“[Senator] Kim Carr referred some incidents to the ACCC, but I’ve spoken to the ACCC as part of the process and encouraged manufacturers to speak to them, but the problem is that if you look at the legislation, there isn’t a lot they can do.

“Once you’ve achieved market dominance as they have through their creeping acquisitions, there’s not a lot of power for the ACCC.

“We think their power should be beefed up and we think there needs to be more oversight.

“At a time when the world is saying Africa needs to have food sovereignty, we’re actually participating in a process where we won’t be able to feed our own people.

"We will be reliant on importing food.

“When we finally hit the wall and find that everything is coming from overseas and we no longer have any Australian food industries, it will be too late.

Only two weeks ago Unibic’s chief executive Michael Quinn was discussing his despair with the supermarket duopoly, telling BusinessDay that the two major supermarkets had made it impossible to survive.

His comments echo those of food manufacturer HJ Heinz, who last year labelled the market an “inhospitable environment” and blamed it on the company having to relocate some operations overseas.

Unibic has an agreement with the Returned Services League to produce a wide range of biscuits, including the Anzac biscuit, which found its way into Australian’s lives throughout times of conflict, when soldiers would eat the biscuits on the battlefront because they lasted a lot longer than other types.

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