By Andy Young

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released a report regarding competition and fair trading issues facing the horticulture and viticulture industries.

The report has highlighted a number of areas of concern, particularly regarding the Horticulture Code of Conduct. The ACCC had a series of workshops in Shepparton, Toowoomba, Bunbury, Griffith, Murray Bridge and Devonport, which were led by Deputy Chair Michael Schaper and Commissioner Mick Keogh, in order to speak with the horticulture and viticulture industries.

The key issues raised by stakeholders in those workshops included:

  • The ineffectiveness of the current Horticulture Code of Conduct.
  • Concerns about late and non-payment of growers by wholesalers.
  • A fear of raising complaints due to concerns about retribution.
  • Uncertainty in contracting practices across both industries.

“The report, which follows a series of workshops held around regional Australia, reflects the views of growers and the broader industries. Despite the diversity of markets in horticulture and viticulture, there were a number of common concerns,” Commissioner Keogh said.

Deputy Chair Schaper added: “It is clear that the Horticulture Code is not achieving its aims and we believe that significant changes to the Code are required.

“The Code needs to have greater coverage, through the inclusion of pre-2006 agreements, and penalties and infringement notices should be available for breaches of the Code to encourage widespread compliance.”

The report identifies a number of areas in which the ACCC will be conducting further work in both industries. These include examining allegations of late payments, interactions between growers and retailers under the Food and Grocery Code, and assessing standard form contracts across both industries to promote compliance with the upcoming business-to- business unfair contract term law.

“There are also a number of contracting and competition issues in the viticulture industry that require further consideration and the ACCC’s Agriculture Unit will be looking at these in greater detail,” Keogh said.

The ACCC has been provided with additional funding of $11.4 million over four years to establish an Agriculture Unit that will conduct investigations and engagement in rural and regional areas.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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