Horticulture code strikes right balance

THE Government response to the Horticulture Code of Conduct strikes the right balance and will ensure a range of improvements within Australia’s horticulture sector to support constructive and fair business between growers and traders, Small Business Minister Michael McCormack says.

Mr McCormack, who has responsibility for consumer affairs and mandatory codes, said the Horticulture Code is a mandatory industry code under section 51AE of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. It is enforced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Established in 2007, the Horticulture Code exists to provide clarity and transparency between growers and wholesalers of fresh fruit and vegetables.

“As a rural MP with a large, agricultural electorate and as the Minister responsible for consumer affairs, I know how vital Australia’s horticulture industry is for Australia’s domestic consumption and export markets, as well as for jobs and services in country communities,” Mr McCormack said.

“Our horticulture industry employs around 57,000 people across Australia and is worth $9.13 billion to our economy, making it our third-largest agricultural industry.

“The Horticulture Code of Conduct will provide a mutually-beneficial and fair framework for transaction between growers and traders and help growers receive fair and timely returns for their produce.”

Released yesterday by Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator The Hon Anne Ruston, the Government’s response to the recommendations will:

  • Provide better guidance to make it easier for traders and growers to comply with the Code
  • Ensure growers and traders have a fair, binding horticulture produce agreement in place to support a more productive and fair trading relationship
  • Allow the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to better identify and rapidly respond to breaches to further support compliance with the Code; and
  • Remove unnecessary regulation where appropriate and allow growers and traders greater flexibility in the trading relationship.

“The Government understands industry codes such as these must ensure growers and traders can work in an effective and fair manner, which is why we commissioned the independent review of the code, to consult widely with growers, traders and the ACCC.

“Accepting nine recommendations, the Government’s response will enable the ACCC to better identify and more rapidly respond to breaches or non-compliance with the Code,” Mr McCormack said.

Mr McCormack praised Assistant Minister Ruston for her work in helping develop the Government’s response to the code.

“The Government consulted widely with the industry and other stakeholders to achieve an outcome which reduces red tape and enables growers and producers and traders to do what they do best – which is the cornerstone of our approach in Government,” Mr McCormack said.

The Government’s response to the review has been welcomed by industry bodies Growcom, AUSVEG and the Victorian Farmers’ Federation.

The response can be viewed here: http://www.agriculture.gov.au/ag-farm-food/hort-policy/code-of-conduct. The new draft code will be made available in coming weeks for further consultation.

Cristy Houghton