The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said chicken processors will be allowed to work together to reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent Stage 4 restrictions imposed by the Victorian government.

Because of the high incidence of COVID-19 cases in the Australian State of Victoria, an order was enacted on August 7, which calls for a 33% reduction in the workforce at meat and poultry plants in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Three days later, ACCC announced that it had granted an urgent interim authorization 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 ACCC authorization would allow sharing or coordinating the use of processing capacity, essential staff, facilities and products.

“We recognize 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 authorization should assist the chicken meat sector to implement arrangements that maintain supply and minimize the risk of food shortages during the COVID-19 restrictions.”

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Keogh added that ACCC will be carefully monitoring the conduct of chicken processors under this authorization, and the commission expects that any arrangements made do not disadvantage chicken growers. The authorization does not override any contractual obligations processors have with growers.

The authorized 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 authorization, participants will also be required to notify the ACCC about decisions under the authorization. Participants will also be expected to provide updates and any information the ACCC requests about poultry company conduct.

Ingham’s is seeking final authorization until December 31, 2020. The ACCC’s interim authorization will remain in place until the ACCC issues a final determination or revokes the interim authorization, or Ingham’s withdraws its application.

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