Small business carries corporations – Shurman

Tasman Group retail outlet

Tasman Group Holdings was at the centre of a rort to drive out small farmers

When Michael Shurman spoke at Delicious Sustainability last year, he presented one slide that showed small business generating the same percentage of the total GDP over the last century, despite continous bailing out of large business by governments, endless subsidies to have major corporations “invest” in the local area.

Small business owners are continuously frustrated by the failure of govenments to protect their interests. Most business lobby groups take membership fees from all comers but then focus on the activities that will most benefit their largest members. The impact of supermaket monopolies has been referred to in two separate Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) but the buying practices used by the supermarkets to gouge their smaller suppliers continue.

One of the articles in this month’s print edition of Westender, due out Thursday, deals with this in some detail. Here is a short excerpt.

Scales of Economy & viability

The Roman Senate fixed the price of grain “low enough to prevent the people rioting and high enough to keep the farmer on the land”. The fall of Rome is often attributed to the impossible nature of this task in a sprawling empire.

Where-as the Romans simply used the government’s coffers to buy grain, or its armies to take over Egypt and navies to secure the supply routes, the modern military industrial complex is a bit more subtle. Campaigns like a dollar-a-litre-milk set the retail price of food so low that only multinational businesses with subsidies from governments and major supermarkets can afford to supply them.

The increasing presence of Coles and Woolworths branded food on the shelves is an indication of the stranglehold these companies have on the supply chain.

When Coles executive Peter Scott was sacked in November 2006 for misconduct it was revealed that he had a 20 percent stake in a major beef supply company Tasman Group Holdings. At the time the media concentrated on the secret deals he had done to enrich himself while earning a large salary at the same time.

For those who care about food sovereignty, though, the real crime was that he bought beef from the market at less than the production cost and then paid a bonus to a small number of suppliers who met certain criteria. Those suppliers, one of which was Tasman Group, could then afford to buy the struggling, unprofitable farmers who were not getting the bonuses. This practice continues today.

So it is that corporate agribusiness has virtually eliminated the “enthusiastic rustic” from the agricultural landscape.

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