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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Fresh supply chain depends on getting the Horticulture Code review right

The federal Government’s review of the Horticulture Code of Conduct must fix the faults in the code or risk destabilising Australia’s fresh fruit and vegetable supply chain, according to Fresh Markets Australia (FMA).

FMA, which represents wholesalers and supporting businesses in Australia’s six central wholesale fruit and vegetable markets, says the review recently announced by Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce and Small Business Minister Bruce Billson was critical to the proper functioning of Australia’s central markets.

FMA Executive Director Andrew Young said the central markets in Brisbane, Newcastle, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth represented a $7 billion a year industry and were significant employment hubs.

“Every year, more than 400 FMA member wholesalers on-sell fresh produce from more than 90 per cent of Australia’s estimated 17,000 commercial fruit and vegetable growing establishments – over 50 per cent of all fresh produce consumed in Australia is handled by a market wholesaler,” he said.

“Without properly functioning central markets, Australia’s fresh fruit and vegetable supply chain would collapse, so the code review must deliver a balanced outcome for growers and wholesalers.

“The Horticulture Code of Conduct is inflexible and anti-competitive and discriminates against the primarily small family businesses that operate as fruit and vegetable wholesalers across Australia.”

Mr Young said the Code of Conduct demanded methods of operation that were inconsistent with how growers and wholesalers do business, and how they want to do business.

“The code burdens wholesalers with responsibility for all the red tape paperwork while the regulators turn a blind eye to growers who pick and choose if and when they want to operate under the code, and who face no penalty for non-compliance,” he said.

Mr Young said the FMA is committed to participating in a robust review of the code and finding a resolution that was equitable and commercially practical.

“FMA is not opposed to a code of conduct, but it is opposed to the code’s unworkable regulations, which must be revised so that both growers and wholesalers are treated fairly and are able to operate their businesses the way they need to,” he said.

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