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Agriculture minister calls for freeze on Xmas ham price

The federal agriculture minister says supermarkets should freeze the price of leg ham to give families certainty ahead of Christmas Day.



Supermarkets should freeze the price of leg ham to give families certainty ahead of Christmas Day, federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt says.


His call comes as Coles and Woolworths look set to face a parliamentary inquiry into whether they are price gouging to get record profits amid cost of living pressures.


Senator Watt on Monday sent a stern warning to supermarkets to "not profit off hardworking Aussies" in the lead-up to Christmas.


Supermarkets should put a freeze on the price of leg ham with Christmas being a tough time for those struggling with cost of living pressures, he said in a statement.


"It's time for supermarkets to do their part and say one thing we won't put up is the price of a Christmas ham," he said.


Senator Watt said farmers also needed certainty that they would get a fair price from supermarkets.


Coles and Woolworths look set to face a parliamentary inquiry into whether they are price gouging.


"For the average Aussie, it doesn't make sense that the price on the bottom of their docket is going up while these companies are recording massive profits," he said.


The Greens are seeking to establish an inquiry into the impact of market concentration on food prices and the pattern of pricing strategies employed by the supermarket duopoly.


Coles and Woolworths will be in the spotlight as the inquiry scrutinises the increasing cost of essential items, validity of discounts offered and profit inflations.


Greens senator Nick McKim said the major supermarkets had far too much power in Australia for too long.


"Coles and Woolworths are making billions in profits because they feel that they can overcharge people without repercussions (and) it needs to end," he said.


"We want the CEOs to justify their decisions in a public hearing."


A Woolworths spokesperson said the company was committed to offering customers value at the same time as it was helping suppliers manage economy-wide inflationary pressures.


"We know Australians are feeling the strain of cost of living and we are working to deliver relief in their weekly grocery shop," the spokesperson said.


The company also flagged promotions on 150 Christmas products that kicked off in October, as well as a deal to lower the price of a half leg of ham to $8 a kilo, its lowest price in nine years.


A Coles spokesperson said the rate of inflation across its goods had been moderating, particularly for staples. 


"Having a profitable business means Coles can continue to serve Australians, invest in our stores, employ the 120,000 team members we employ, pay taxes in Australia, pay dividends to our hundreds of thousands of mum and dad shareholders and ensure long-term sustainable relationships with our suppliers," the company said.


Nationals Farmers' Federation chief executive Tony Mahar said an inquiry was urgently needed.


"Farmers are worried and concerned that the prices they're getting don't or aren't reflected on the supermarket shelves," he told Seven's Sunrise program on Monday.


"It would be really good to actually examine who's clipping the ticket across the supply chain, and if there is gouging there, let's do something about it."


Nationals leader David Littleproud said a parliamentary inquiry would take too long when action was needed now to address the cost of living.


He has pushed for the consumer watchdog to investigate price gouging. 


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