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Hockey tells growers that transparency is market key.



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Joe Hockey MP Minister for Small Business and Tourism

July 20, 2004

HOCKEY TELLS GROWERS THAT TRANSPARENCY IS MARKET KEY

Transparent trading terms that can be finalised in a timely manner are the key to a fair relationship between growers and merchants, the Minister for Small Business and Tourism, Joe Hockey, told the Horticulture Annual General Meeting of the New South Wales Farmers’ Association.

In a productive meeting, the Minister outlined the Government’s response to the Buck Report into the Retail Grocery Code. The Minister reaffirmed the Federal Government’s commitment to the voluntary code and outlined extra measures it would take that recognise the difficulties growers face selling their produce through the markets.

In particular, Mr Hockey identified the following areas:

• A fairer representation for growers on the Code Administration Committee. To this end Mr Hockey last week wrote to existing Committee members expressing the Government’s intent on rebalancing the representation.

• The establishment of a robust and effective internal disputes mechanism between growers and the markets. Mr Hockey last week met with representatives of the NFF and the merchants’ body, the Chamber of Fruit and Vegetables and asked them to provide a workable compromise by October 1. Representatives from the Federal Office of Small Business will be involved in the development of the code and it will be reviewed by the ACCC.

• As part of the development of the dispute resolution process the growers and markets will agree on a transparent terms of trade mechanism that will clearly identify the wholesalers as agent or principal.

“I am particularly keen that growers are informed whether their produce is sold by an agent or sold to a principal and I expect that normal terms of trade should clearly identify this” Mr Hockey said.

“The advantage of establishing dispute resolution mechanisms on site at the markets means that problems can be identified and resolved quickly. This is particularly important given the shorter shelf life of fresh produce. Most importantly the Ombudsman role will remain the same and growers who do not wish to use the new process can go directly to that office.”

As a result of today’s meeting, the NSW Farmers’ Association will now contact the National Farmers’ Federation and have input into the negotiations for the new internal dispute resolution process.

This practical approach of listening to the participants and crafting responses suited to them is in stark contrast to Latham’s ALP. Opposition spokesman, Gavin O’Conner has jumped on the bandwagon and promised to re-regulate the industry by imposing a mandatory code. Clearly Federal Labor is out of step with the State Labor Governments who have recognised that many small businesses, such as growers, could suffer adversely under the increased red tape, paperwork and arbitration costs imposed by a mandatory scheme.

The Federal Government will continue to work with the industry, and in particular groups such as the NSW Farmers’ Association, to balance the interests of small business farmers, small business wholesalers, small business retailers and other small businesses in the fruit and vegetable retail industry.

Media enquiries: Sasha Grebe, 0408 974 349