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ACCC takes firm action on Code contracts

Horticulture Australia Council (HAC), the peak national body representing horticultural industries, has welcomed the firm action taken by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in warning traders and growers against contracts which may not be compliant with the mandatory Horticulture Code of Conduct.

HAC and other grower organisations had alerted the ACCC to allegations from growers that many traders were presenting them with agreements which they believed were not Code-compliant.

HAC Chair, Stuart Swaddling, said “The ACCC have finally put the onus on traders, and those trader associations which have distributed non-compliant templates to their members (who have in turn distributed them to their growers, often in good faith), to ensure that their contracts comply with the Code.

“The ACCC directs traders to ensure that their Horticulture Produce Agreements (HPA) templates are the latest ones; and to terminate non-compliant agreements and replace them with Code-compliant ones. This is real step forward in the effective and equitable implementation of the Code.

"We urge all growers and traders to ensure that the HPA templates they use are Code-compliant. In particular, contracts which contain the following clauses should be terminated and re-negotiated:

 Contracts which nominate wholesalers as Merchants but require prices to be determined on sale or delivery – a Merchant arrangement means the produce is bought upfront by the trader;  Any provision to reject produce once it is accepted under a Merchant transaction;  A trader refusing to pay for produce they cannot sell, or charge handling fees under a Merchant agreement;  Standard fixed prices which are clearly too low and do not accurately reflect the produce and market; bonus or marketing payments are risky and are not always in the best interest of both parties;  The charging of Code compliance levies; and  Merchant agreements which specify costs for things such as waste removal and produce stacking.

“To assist the trading partners, we have developed template agreements; these have been ‘vetted’ by the ACCC, to ensure growers and traders can be confident they are Code-compliant.

“We encourage any trader or grower who is uncertain whether an agreement is Code-compliant to contact their association, or the ACCC confidentially on the hotline 1300 302 502,” Swaddling said.

For further information visit www.hac.org.au/code_of_conduct/



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