Australian govt supports changes to Horticulture Code of Conduct
The Australian Government has welcomed the findings of an independent review of the Horticulture Code of Conduct, which it says will see improvements put in place to address key concerns and ensure the ongoing sustainability and productivity of the sector.
The Horticulture Code is a mandatory industry code enforced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). It is intended to provide clarity and transparency of transactions between produce growers and wholesalers.
Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Anne Ruston, said it was important that the Code supported constructive and fair business between horticulture growers and traders.
“Australia’s horticulture industry is one of our most valuable and important industries. It is our third largest agriculture industry, contributes $9.13 billion to the economy and employs around 57,000 people across the country,” she said.
“The Horticulture Code of Conduct is important for the industry, because it provides a framework for the transactions between growers and traders to occur in a mutually beneficial and fair manner.
"We understand the concerns that have been raised regarding the overall effectiveness of the Code, especially the number of transactions occurring outside its coverage."
She said it was important that the code helped growers receive "fair and timely returns" for their produce, but added the government also needed to ensure it did not restrict trade.
“That is why we commissioned the independent review to identify ways to address the concerns that have been raised and to improve the Code for the benefit of Australian horticulture," she said.
“The Australian Government has carefully considered the recommendations from the review to identify those that will effectively address those concerns, and our response will help ensure the Code can adequately support the industry into the future."
The government has accepted nine recommendations from the review, which it says will provide better compliance guidance to traders and growers, ensure that they have a "fair, binding horticulture produce agreement in place", allow the ACCC to better identify and rapidly respond to breaches, and remove "unnecessary regulation" to allow for more flexibility.
“Our response demonstrates an appropriate balance between the need for transparency in the trading relationship and the need for the code to ensure that trade is not tied up in red tape,” Ruston said.
“This is another example of the Australian government delivering on real, tangible improvements for Australian horticulture and I look forward to seeing the benefits of the revised code flow onto our producers and farmers across the nation.”
Changes welcomed by vegetable industry
The leading national body representing Australian vegetable growers has welcomed the future reforms, highlighting the amendments would require traders to generate and keep records on their transactions, along with records of all growers and buyers with whom they deal.
“This code of conduct has been in need of reform for many years to make it more relevant to growers, and it’s great to see the government taking the review’s key recommendations on board and committing to increasing transparency and accountability under the code,” said AUSVEG CEO James Whiteside.
“This reform process has brought all stakeholders to the table, and we appreciate the work of Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Anne Ruston in taking a hands-on role to ensure that the reformed code is stronger and more effective for Australian growers.”
He also said the announcement of civil penalties for code breaches meant there were now "greater recourses available for all parties who have suffered from behaviour which breaches the obligations."
“AUSVEG congratulates the Australian Government for these proposed reforms which will strengthen the transparency of trading relationships under the code," he said.
We applaud the way in which the Australian Government handled the reform process by ensuring a wide variety of industry interests were considered and for their commitment to pursuing these important reforms.”