Step Towards Fairness For Farmers And Families

A mandatory Food and Grocery Code of Conduct will be a step towards fairness for farmers and families, NSW Farmers says, but more work needs to be done.

The final report pf the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct Independent Review by Dr Craig Emerson was published on Monday, with all 11 recommendations being agreed to by the Federal Government.

But while making the code mandatory, significantly increasing penalties for breaches, and providing better support for farmers in disputes with the supermarkets were positive steps, NSW Farmers Horticulture Committee chair Jo Brighenti-Barnard said there was still a long way to go in solving Australia’s supermarket problem.

“We welcome this report which confirms what we’ve been saying all along – there needs to be meaningful competition reform so Australian farmers and families can get a fair go at the checkout,” Ms Brighenti-Barnard said.

“For too long farmers have been afraid to speak out because of the sheer might of these two big supermarkets, so options for independent mediators and arbitrators who can set enforceable actions is a good step, but growers need to be able to use them without fear of retribution.

“It will be critical for farmers to have an active role in drafting this mandatory code so it is practical and fit for purpose.”

Among the findings in the report were enormous penalties for breaches of the code – something NSW Farmers had been seeking – but Ms Brighenti-Barnard said courts rarely imposed the maximum penalty.

“A mandatory code with significant penalties is something we’ve been seeking, and we welcome this, but they need to be a real deterrent, not just a cost of doing business,” she said.

“It’s clear farmers and families are hurting on either side of this supply chain, and it is meaningful competition reform that is needed to deliver results.

“So the Emerson report goes one step, but we also need an economy-wide prohibition on unfair trading practices, proper protection against retribution for farmers who speak out, and an overhaul of the current merger and acquisition approval process.”

We’re getting there, Ms Brighenti-Barnard said, but there was still a long way to go.

“As long as farmers are selling their fresh food for a few cents a kilo and supermarkets are charging families a few dollars a kilo, we’ll all continue to feel the pain,” Ms Brighenti-Barnard said.

“We’re hopeful this is the best step towards the meaningful competition reform we’ve been crying out for.”

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