Brismark welcomes new Horticulture Code of Conduct

27 March 2017

Queensland’s fresh produce wholesaling organisation, Brismark, has welcomed the Federal Government’s release of the new mandatory Horticulture Code of Conduct that will take effect from 1 April. It is reassuring that after 10 years working under the existing Code that the wholesaling sector was finally consulted and listened to in relation to the changes required to make the Code workable.

Brismark CEO, Andrew Young, said his organisation had worked extremely hard throughout the review process over the past 18 months to coordinate a national response on behalf of the wholesaling sector.

He said Brismark’s wholesaler members had been hit hard by the previous anti-competitive and unworkable Code that had been the subject of multiple reviews and complaints by both the wholesaling and growing sectors of the industry.

“The new Code will offer increased flexibility and a reduction in the prescriptive clauses which contributed to making the existing Code unworkable,” Mr Young said.

“It is now paramount that grower associations join with the Central Markets to educate their respective members on the new arrangements. This is now critical given that both growers and wholesalers are now required to comply with the Code, and that substantial monetary penalties may apply where breaches occurred.

“It was clear that the Government’s view was that all growers should have Horticulture Produce Agreements in place with every wholesaler they do business with, and this was now the law.”

Mr Young said there still existed a small number of important areas of concern that should be a worry to all businesses involved in fresh produce trading under the new Code.

“The Code brings with it the introduction of costly penalties, which could place growers and wholesalers in an onerous financial position if the maximum penalty of $54,000 per breach is applied,” Mr Young said.

“These are anti-competitive and very harsh provisions and we are therefore calling on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to only seek such penalties as a last resort and in extreme cases where serious, blatant and repetitive breaches of the Code have occurred. We also have concerns regarding the vague legal interpretation around a small number of penalty clauses, which could create confusion and uncertainty.”

Other welcome changes to the Code include:

  • Transactions that will allow a wholesaler to calculate the return price based upon an agreed formula
  • Recognition of industry provided dispute resolution processes
  • Pooling of like quality produce, and
  • Written acceptance of Horticulture Produce Agreements by email/fax etc.

Mr Young has commended the Federal Government for the consultative processes that have led to the release of the new regulations.

“Government regulation is never a substitute for good business practices but with a more flexible and commercial Code to work with, it will certainly assist growers and wholesalers navigating through what has been a legal mine field under the existing Code.”

Ends

 

Media Contact: Andrew Young, CEO, Brismark | 07 3915 4200 | 0438 388 311 | [email protected]

About Brismark:

Brismark is a member organisation which represents and serves the needs of the wholesaling sector of the fresh fruit and vegetable industry – in particular the primary Wholesalers that operate out of the Brisbane Produce Market (the Market).

With more than 50 Members, Brismark provides advocacy and financial, commercial and marketing services to primary Wholesalers, secondary Wholesalers, commercial buyers, growers and industry groups and job seekers.

More information can be found on our website: www.brismark.com.au