Peak representative body Growcom has called for a focus on improving transparency through all stages of the fruit and vegetable growing industry a review of the Horticultural Code of Conduct.
Providing farmers with real time price information is outlined as a major priority to ensure that famers are getting the best prices for their produce.
Growcom Chief Advocate, Rachel Mackenzie, says that the fluctuating nature of the fruit and vegetable market makes it hard for farmers to keep track of prices, and they are often left out of the loop once their produce is handed over to wholesalers.
“It just gives the growers more information about how their product is being used in the marketplace… If these [wholesalers] are their agents then they need to be trying to get the best price for the growers, and the growers need to be able to see that,” says Rachel.
“At the moment growers can sometimes just get paid a lump sum with no clear information about what the product was bought for, how much commission has been taken out and then they’ve got no way of benchmarking that against anybody else.”
Real time price information would allow growers to see the going price of their produce at any given time.
The current Horticultural Code of Conduct has provisions to ensure the rights of farmers, however a recent Growcom survey indicated widespread non-compliance is a major issue for the industry.
The survey found that in forty percent of cases there was no written contract between the grower and supplier, which is one of the key strategies outlined by the code of conduct for ensuring fair industry relationships.
“Of those who didn’t have a horticultural agreement, seventy-fiver percent said that it was because they wanted to maintain a good relationship with the supplier,” says Rachel.
Fifteen per cent of respondents were unaware of the code of conduct.
The Growcom submission to the review has been received by the Department of Agriculture and findings are expected to be delivered later in the year.
“We’re not saying that this is going to be something that can happen overnight, this is the beginning of a conversation.”