The Multinational Monitor



From the Family Farm to Agribusiness

Agriculture supplies more than 45 percent of Australia's foreign exchange and provides employment for 6.5 percent of all Australians. Exports of grain and meat in 1979 were valued at $A2.9 billion and, $A1.7 billion, exceeding those of all other commodities. Good harvests this year, accompanied by ever-increasing prices, have raised Australia's export earnings to record levels.

From its colonial beginnings as a British agricultural outpost, Australia's economy has been based on the output from family-run farms. But as in other parts of the world, considerable centralization has occurred in Australian agriculture since the 1960s as agribusiness has expanded into nearly all aspects of rural production, reducing many independent primary producers to the position of de facto wage laborers engaged in agricultural commodity manufacturing.

  • Twelve companies, six of them either wholly or largely owned by multinational corporations, control over 70 percent of Australian meat production. In Queensland, eight companies account for 75 percent of all cattle slaughtered.
  • Three companies dominate over 90 percent of the chicken meat output in Australia-Inghams Enterprises Pty Ltd., Allied Mills Ltd. and George Weston Foods (a subsidiary of the giant U.K. food processor, Associated British Foods Ltd.).
  • Four large groups share the flour-milling industry: Allied Mills Ltd., Fielder-Gillespie Ltd. and two foreign controlled conglomerates, George Weston Foods Ltd. and Clifford Love and Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of the U.S.based CPC International. These companies control flour-milling, starch and gluten, bread, biscuit, pastry, stockfeed and livestock processing plants, and fattening facilities. They also are involved in chicken-meat and egg production via the stockfeeds section of the grain-converting industry.
  • Three transnational corporations, including Kellog Inc. and Nabisco Pty Ltd. (both subsidiaries of U.S. firms), account for over 95 percent of the cereal market. The cookie and cracker industry rests in the hands of Arnott's Ltd., Associated British Foods and Nabisco Pty Ltd.-the three combined handling 98 percent of the $A240 million per year industry.

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