Helping growers fill the Horticulture Code information gap

17 August 2017 –

Central Market wholesaler representative organisation, Fresh Markets Australia (FMA) has stepped up its campaign to educate Australia’s 15,000 fruit and vegetable growers.

The move is to fill the information gap created from a change to the Horticulture Code of Conduct, the document that stipulates how growers and wholesalers should trade together.

FMA is taking a proactive approach to expand its Code education responsibilities after reports by numerous Market Wholesalers that their grower suppliers were advising that they were still in the dark about the updated trading arrangements.

FMA has delivered intensive training to Central Market businesses regarding the Code’s revised responsibilities since the Federal Government’s hurried introduction of the new legislation on 1 April to replace the prior anti-competitive 2007 regulations.

FMA worked closely with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), prior to rolling out standard-form Terms of Trade and Horticulture Produce Agreement (HPA) documents to assist growers and wholesalers transition toward compliance under the new Code.

However, FMA Chairman, Shane Schnitzler, said that many growers did not appear to be receiving the same message about their need for compliance, with only a small number of workshops with low attendances being held by grower associations in the months following the Code’s introduction.  He said the media had also brought to his attention that some associations were under the misinformation that the ACCC was concerned about FMA’s standard format documents. This was not the case, as FMA had provided all its documents to the ACCC for review prior to them being finalised.

“At a time when both wholesalers and growers are calling for industry unification, all parties need to accept the requirement for contractual arrangements to be detailed in HPA’s,” Mr Schnitzler said.

“It is the first time that the Code has imposed obligations on both traders and growers, and the first time that there are substantial penalties for anyone not complying with those obligations.”

Mr Schnitzler said there were a number of grower-specific Code obligations in the new regulations.

This was in addition to the clear definitions which identify who is considered to be a ‘Trader’, new dispute resolution requirements, and, most importantly, beefed up powers for the ACCC.

Mr Schnitzler said Market-based traders have started issuing new HPAs to their grower suppliers and it was important that growers recognised that there was a

legal requirement for them to have a HPA in place with each trader who they do business with.

“FMA’s documentation has the flexibility to be customised with the grower and trader’s relevant details and trading requirements,” Mr Schnitzler said.

“That’s a key difference to the previous Code which was considered inflexible and anti-competitive.”

Mr Schnitzler said it was important that growers engaged with all Traders that they are doing business with and that they move to agree the terms of Code compliant HPAs.

Growers needed to:

  • Understand that traders and growers are required to have HPAs in place; and
  • Review, negotiate and agree to the terms of HPAs they receive from all trader’s which they doing business with.

“The Code states that traders and growers must not trade in horticulture produce unless they have a Code compliant HPA in place and if they do, a penalty of up to $63,000 can apply for such a breach,” Mr Schnitzler said.

For more information about the Code, visit the ACCC website www.accc.gov.au/business/ industry-codes/horticulture-code-of-conduct.