The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is putting growers and traders in the horticulture industry on notice that they need to take steps to comply with the 2017 Horticulture Code of Conduct, or face penalties and fines.
Addressing the 2017 NSW Farmers Horticulture Forum today, ACCC Commissioner Mick Keogh called on growers and traders to familiarise themselves with the Code and to ensure their businesses are compliant.
Since the revised Horticulture Code was introduced on 1 April 2017, the ACCC has worked with industry associations to educate growers and traders about their rights and obligations. The next stage of the ACCC’s work in relation to the Code will be to begin compliance audits.
“Later this year the ACCC plans to use its investigative powers to check the industry’s level of compliance with the Horticulture Code. If Code breaches are detected, the ACCC may take enforcement action,” Mr Keogh said.
“The Code is designed to offer new protections for growers and traders. We want the horticultural industry to understand that breaching the Code could mean facing an infringement notice or court action.”
Mr Keogh said Courts could impose penalties of up to $63,000 for serious breaches of certain sections of the Code. For other smaller breaches, the ACCC can issue infringement notices to the value of $10,500 for body corporates and $2,100 for individuals.
“The revised Code aims to address much of the commercial uncertainty that has existed for many years in these markets, and which numerous inquiries and reports have identified,” Mr Keogh said.
“While the ACCC will continue to educate the industry about the revised Code, businesses are now on notice that ensuring compliance with industry codes, including the Horticulture Code, is a priority for the ACCC.”
Notes to editors
The Horticulture Code is a mandatory industry code under the Australian Competition and Consumer Act, which sets out the minimum requirements for agents and traders in their dealings with fruit and vegetable growers.
Revisions to the Horticulture Code of Conduct were undertaken following a review commissioned by the Australian Government. The Code has been revised to improve commercial practices in fresh fruit and vegetable markets.
There is a 12-month transition period to allow the industry time to adapt their existing arrangements to the new Code. By 1 April 2018, all existing agreements between farmers and agents/wholesalers must be compliant with the new Code. However, any agreement made or renewed after 1 April 2017 must be compliant with the Code immediately.
The obligation to act in good faith, along with record keeping and dispute resolution obligations, will also apply immediately from 1 April 2017. The transition period does not apply to these sections of the Code.
You can find more information about the Horticulture Code on the ACCC website: Horticulture Code of Conduct
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