NON compliance to the Horticulture Code of Conduct has led to the watchdog updating its guidelines for growers and wholesalers.
Last month the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released an updated Horticulture Code guide to help growers and traders understand their rights and fulfill responsibilities under the code.
The code seeks to protect horticulture growers by requiring all trading with agents and merchants (traders) to happen under a written agreement.
The agreement must include certain things, such as how prices are calculated and when the grower gets paid.
The update provides further detail on the code's key elements, including the requirements for traders to publish their terms of trade, and for merchants to report the gross sales price when paying a grower an amount calculated by a method or formula.
ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said the ACCC's recent compliance checks found some horticulture traders were not making their terms of trade publicly available and were incorrectly reporting prices in grower statements, which put growers at a disadvantage
"We are committed to helping growers and traders fully understand their rights and responsibilities under the code," Mr Keogh said.
The ACCC's enforcement tools include administrative resolutions, court enforceable undertakings under section 87B of the CCA, infringement notices, and initiating court action for certain breaches.
Warning flagged earlier this year
IN July the ACCC increased its focus on Horticulture Code of Conduct non-compliance after audits found incidents of wholesalers not meeting their legal obligations.
The ACCC conducted audits after hearing through its Perishable Agricultural Goods Inquiry that some fruit and vegetable wholesalers were trading without Horticulture Produce Agreements, which is a breach of the code.
The fresh produce industry, with government funding, has been pushing to improved the transparency of the transaction process.
In July the federal government committed $1.75 million to improve market transparency and bargaining power for the industry with money pledged to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences and to an industry consortium led by Fresh Markets Australia (FMA).
FMA has been leading the initiative to develop and build the web-based application, known as FreshData, that provides verifiable, daily updated market data across all fresh fruit and vegetables.
It will mean growers can access daily market information online about the prices of fresh fruit and vegetables, and the volume of market sales within 24 hours.
THE ACCC said it will continue its education and engagement work and will increase its focus on enforcement.
"The ACCC will soon be conducting further compliance checks, and where we identify non-compliance we will seriously consider enforcement action," Mr Keogh said.
The ACCC's guidance was last revised in 2017 with the introduction of the current version of the code.
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