More work needed on Horticulture Code say growers

NSW Farmers’ Association is encouraged by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s recent action against a Victorian produce trader for breaking the Horticulture Code of Conduct.v

NSW Farmers’ Association is encouraged by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s recent action against a Victorian produce trader for breaking the Horticulture Code of Conduct.

However, NSW Farmers’ Horticulture Chairman, Peter Darley, warned there is more that must be done by the Federal Government to strengthen the code.

“The Horticulture Code was made in 2006 to ensure transparency and fairness in the way produce traders deal with fruit and vegetable growers but there have been issues with the code from day one,” he said.

“Most importantly a loophole, which allows many sale agreements between growers and traders to operate outside of the code, must be closed to protect the rights of affected growers.

“Sale agreements made prior to 13 December 2006 are not subject to the code. This has limited the impact of the code and resulted in many growers being coerced to enter into backdated arrangements since its commencement.”

Mr Darley said better access to dispute resolution for fruit and vegetable growers and improved oversight of the code by the ACCC were also desperately needed.

“Growers tell me they are worried that if they make a complaint under the Horticulture Code that they will lose access to the fresh food market,” he said.

“We are very encouraged by the ACCC’s action in Victoria and we hope it highlights the need for it to proactively undertake random audits of traders to ensure they are complying with their obligations.

“NSW Farmers’ horticulture growers eagerly await the Federal Government’s response to recommendations by the Horticulture Code Committee in 2009.  I think we have been extremely patient and the time has come.”

Mr Darley added that while NSW Farmers welcomes the ACCC’s spotlight on the impact of the supermarkets on fruit and vegetable growers and other farmers, it is important that any findings are used to strengthen the Horticulture Code.

“The Horticulture Code is an important tool to protect fruit and vegetable growers and we want to ensure it is as effective as possible,” he said.

Contact: Veneta Chapple

Phone: 0429 990 218

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