Don’t make horticulture industry reforms an election campaign ‘stunt’

24 June 2016

Don’t make horticulture industry reforms an election campaign ‘stunt’

Fresh Markets Australia (FMA) has urged the major parties not to be drawn into an election stunt by rural lobby
groups that would see the $7 billion horticulture industry used as a bargaining chip.
A commitment to introduce all 13 recommendations of the Independent Review of the Horticulture Code of
Conduct without industry consultation is amongst a raft of demands being made of the Government and
Opposition by a collection of rural lobby groups.
Fresh Markets Australia (FMA) is the peak body representing fruit and vegetable wholesalers across Australia. Its
members handle produce from more than 90% of Australia’s commercial fruit and vegetable growing
establishments valued at $7 billion a year at wholesaler prices.
FMA Executive Director Andrew Young said, although the FMA broadly supported 11 of the 13 recommendations,
significant work needed to be done to ensure the resulting legislation was effective, workable and fair.
In addition, FMA warned of the folly of the thought bubble of ‘real-time price reporting’ for wholesale fruit and
vegetable markets, an impractical and expensive proposal deceitfully being presented as one of the Independent
Review Panel’s recommendations to the Government. It was very clearly not one of the 13 recommendations
made by the Panel to the Government.
Mr Young accused the rural lobby groups of deliberately muddying the waters of public discussion by raising
“mandatory real-time price reporting” at fruit and vegetable wholesale markets when discussing the
recommendations of the Review Panel.
“To state publicly that the Independent Review Panel has recommended to the Government that the Horticulture
Code of Conduct be amended to include mandatory real-time pricing at Central Markets would be outright
dishonesty,” Mr Young said.
“There are already price reporting services operating in Central Markets and it is very unfortunate that it appears
these rural lobby groups are again ignoring the opportunity to achieve workable cost effective outcomes as a
prerequisite of this latest review of the Code.
“Such comments undermine the co-operative and productive working relationships that exist between growers
and wholesalers.”
Mr Young said the review of the Code was too important to the future of Australian horticulture to use as a
cynical grab for votes.
“A period of caretaker government during the commotion of an election campaign is not the time to consider the
recommendations of the Independent Review,” Mr Young said.
“It is worth remembering that the current unworkable Code was introduced on the fly during the 2004 election in
a desperate bid to shore up the rural vote. This has already been recognised by the Government.
“Stakeholders, including growers and wholesalers, have been assured by Assistant Minister for Agriculture and
Water Resources Senator Ann Ruston that the Department of Agriculture would prepare a discussion paper on the
review recommendations before the government issued its formal response.
“On delegated authority from Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby
Joyce, Minister Ruston promised that the discussion paper would be provided to all interested parties and their
comments sought.”
Mr Young said FMA had always believed the Independent Review was a way of fixing faults in the eight-year-old
Code that risked destabilising Australia’s fresh fruit and vegetable supply chain.
“We acknowledge the work of panellists Mark Napper and Alan Wein, who spoke with a wide cross-section of
industry players, including growers and wholesalers, and who reviewed a large number of submissions in making
their report,” Mr Young said.
“In particular, we endorse absolutely the panel’s comment that ‘…the Horticulture Code is not intended to
substitute good business behaviours, conduct and practices, but rather to support these disciplines through
simple, but effective regulation’.
“Now they have made their recommendations, it is appropriate that proper consultation and legislative processes
continue to be followed to ensure the current Code of Conduct works for all parties involved in the Australian
Horticultural industry.”
– ENDS –

For further information, please contact:
Andrew Young, Executive Director, on 07 3915 4200 or 0438 388 411
FMA is the national industry body representing wholesalers and supporting businesses in Australia’s six central
wholesale fruit and vegetable markets.

Note: The Horticulture Code was established in 2007 to regulate trade in horticulture produce between growers
and traders of fresh fruit and vegetables and to provide an alternative dispute resolution procedure. The
Horticulture Code is a prescribed, mandatory industry code under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. The
code came into operation with the aim of improving the clarity and transparency in transactions between
horticulture growers and traders and to provide some standard procedures and mandatory requirements in the
trading relationship.

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