One step forward for Australian supermarket code

The Chief Executive Officer of Australia’s National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), Simon Talbot, has cautiously welcomed the announcement that the Government has prescribed the Competition and Consumer (Industry Codes – Food and Grocery) Regulation 2015 – the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct.

The Code arose in response to concerns raised in recent years about the conduct of retailers towards their suppliers. The NFF has long been concerned about the issue, along with member organisations, like the Australian Dairy Farmers.

“The NFF has maintained support for a mandatory, binding code; but this voluntary prescribed Code is a constructive step towards addressing the issues of concern to the farm sector,” Mr Talbot said.

Mr Talbot said that those issues included the need for an independent and transparent complaints and mediation process, remedies for breaches of the Code, and a requirement to act in good faith.

“The proof of this pudding will be in the eating. We will be monitoring how the initiative will work in practice.

“The key issue for farmers is ensuring that there is transparency and equity right across the agricultural supply chain from saleyards to supermarkets. The development of this Code is one component in addressing these concerns. Another is the Government’s review of competition legislation (the Harper Review), where the farm sector has outlined its views on misuse of market power and anti-competitive behaviour across the supply chain.

“To be effective the Code must include a commitment from all major retailers. Clearly, if a voluntary prescribed Code is going to work, it needs to have support from across the retail sector, and we hope that support will be forthcoming.”

Mr Talbot said that the NFF looked forward to the review of the Code, scheduled in 3 years’ time.

“If that review finds that there are some concerns, or if it is not working as it is expected, the NFF will be demanding that a mandatory Code be put in place.

“We support a review that will look at the need for additional measures: such as including civil penalties and other improvements to ensure that the Code is meeting its objective of improving standards of business conduct in the food and grocery sector.

“The NFF will continue to work with the relevant stakeholders to make this happen. The government has made a start on fixing the issues in the supply chain, but the work is not done yet.”

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