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Growcom responds to harsh criticism from Fresh Markets Australia over real time pricing push

Too many wholesalers 'flout' code of conduct

Growcom has responded to a story published criticizing its approach to the review of the Horticulture Code of Conduct, advocating for real time pricing for wholesale fresh produce retailers. The Code of Conduct was introduced in 2007 to improve pricing transparency, and the current review is investigating the effectiveness of the code in achieving that objective.
In a statement Fresh Markets Australia CEO Andrew Young questioned the reach and efficacy of Growcom, and Growcom Chief Advocate Rachel Mackenzie, as well as Growcom Chair and blueberry grower Jonathan Shaw have replied to comments made by Mr Young. “Growcom represents about 80 per cent of the total value of fruit and vegetable production in Queensland. We have a solid and public record of representing horticulture growers in Queensland for more than 90 years,” said Mr Shaw.
Growcom is representing the view that pricing transparency is a key issue, that needs to be improved, according to Mr Shaw.“Fresh Markets Australia is in denial if it doesn’t accept that pricing transparency is an issue,” he said. 

“It was one reason the Code was introduced in the first place and there is overwhelming feedback from growers that it remains an issue. It’s time for FMA to accept the issue exists and start working with growers on how it can be fixed rather than attacking the messenger or our sincerity in advocating the issue on behalf of our growers.”
Fresh Markets Australia said that it represented 400 wholesalers across Australia, taking produce from 90% of commercial growers, and its members processed 12 million transactions annually.
Growcom’s issue is not with the market information services that provide the best service possible with current technology however, but with the wholesalers, said Ms Mackenzie. “Ultimately our issue is with those wholesalers who continue to flout the provisions of the Code by pushing all the risk back on to the growers – they refuse to specify whether they are buying the product outright (merchants) or acting as agents on behalf of the growers depending on the conditions in the market.”
The online survey of growers had been developed by the NSW Farmers association and other farming organisations and could only be filled out once, not multiple times. In response to claims that only 137 surveys were filled out, Ms Mackenzie pointed out that a significant number of respondents had provided their details for further engagement.

Growcom was putting forward the views of those growers, according to Ms Mackenzie. “According to growers, they also don’t tell growers what they (the agents) received for the grower’s product and provide vague reports which make it difficult for growers to determine how much commission they are being charged,” she said. “Growcom has been shown a number of such sales reports by growers.”
There was also substantial work done to collect information in other ways, Ms Mackenzie said. “The survey was just one consultation tool utilised by Growcom in relation to the Horticulture Code of Conduct Review and was supported by numerous face to face interviews, telephone conversations and emails. In addition, Growcom worked closely with our regional and interstate counterparts to ensure we put forward a consistent and balanced response to the Code review.”
“Growcom is not alone in questioning the current market information services either, said Mr Shaw. “This is a national issue. Growcom is one of a number of grower organisations across Australia representing similar views of growers on this issue,” he pointed out. “We are not alone in stating that exploring a real time pricing mechanism using modern technology could provide clear, accurate information to growers about what their produce sold for.”
For more information 
Christine Walker, Communications Manager
Phone: +61736203864

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