Fruit and vegetables wholesalers ‘left out’ of Food and Grocery Code of Conduct
The Australian Chamber of Fruit and Vegetable Industries (The Australian Chamber), which represents Australia’s six central fruit and vegetable markets, has told the Senate inquiry into the regulation of the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct that the fruit and vegetable wholesale sector has been ‘left out’ of the Code.
The Australian Chamber told the Senate Economics Legislation Committee, which is currently hearing submissions to its inquiry into the regulation of the Code, that the wholesaling businesses represented by The Australian Chamber have been “sidelined”.
“The wholesaling sector has not been successful in engaging meaningfully with Government as it does not have the political force of some other parts of the industry,” The Australian Chamber said in its submission.
Horticulture Code of Conduct ‘creates inequities’ in industry
The Australian Chamber said market wholesalers, who are involved in the sale of 50 to 60 per cent of the fresh produce sold across Australia, are currently bound to the mandatory Horticulture Code of Conduct, which was introduced on 14 May 2007.
The Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) of the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct stated that “the proposed Grocery Code does not apply to the extent it conflicts with the Horticulture Code of Conduct (that is, the Horticulture Code of Conduct would prevail)”. The Australian Chamber has continued to argue for the repeal of the Horticulture Code of Conduct, which it says creates a “heavy burden of compliance cost” for wholesalers. It said that the introduction of the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct as it currently stands would create inequities and be anti-competitive.
“The Australian Chamber is again asking that the Government is clear in their objectives and fair in the application of policies with respect to the introduction and use of industry codes of conduct so as to ensure that they do not introduce inequities which are clearly anticompetitive in their application,” The Australian Chamber said in its submission.
The Australian Chamber represents more than 430 market wholesaling businesses. Over 15,000 growers supply to businesses within the Central Market system in Australia. The total turnover of businesses in the Central Markets exceeds some $7 billion annually.
The Senate Economics Legislation Committee is currently hearing submissions to its Inquiry into the Competition and Consumer (Industry Codes — Food and Grocery) Regulation 2015. On 5 March 2015, the Economics Legislation Committee resolved, under Standing Order 25(2)(a), to inquire into and report by 31 March 2015 on regulation of the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct.. On 26 March 2015, the committee resolved to extend the reporting date to 14 May 2015. Submissions closed on 13 March 2015.