THE Victorian Farmers Federation is less than impressed by a voluntary code of conduct for food and grocery retailers, farmers and suppliers flagged by the Australian National Retailers’ Association (ANRA).
The VFF said a voluntary code of conduct would not adequately protect farmers’ interests from the power of the major supermarket chains and that only strengthening the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 would deliver a fair outcome.
ANRA chief executive officer Margy Osmond announced yesterday the major supermarkets had made “excellent progress” over the past nine months on the voluntary code with the Australian Food and Grocery Council, which represents the interests of food, drink and grocery manufacturing industry.
She called upon the National Farmer’s Federation to rejoin discussions about the code.
“Our supermarkets wouldn’t have a sustainable business without Australian farmers and are passionate about Australian food, so our relationships with our suppliers are crucial to us,” she said.
“We believe a voluntary code of conduct will provide certainty and confidence for both supermarkets and our suppliers. The strong competition already evident in Australia’s supermarket sector has meant lower prices for the Australian community. In fact, grocery prices fell an average of 2.9 per cent in Australia last financial year.
“It is important to recognise that additional red tape or regulation that limits competitive forces significantly increases the risk of higher prices.”
The VFF, however, said even a mandatory code of conduct would be a failure without legislative support.
“The fact is the only mandatory code of conduct we’ve got, the horticulture code, has been a complete failure,” VFF commodity and policy spokesman Peter Hunt said.
“What hope have we then with a voluntary code? Farmers have been calling for it to be strengthened since 2008 with no response from the federal Labor government.
“The crucial issue is the legislation which underpins all contracts, codes and issues of market power in Australia needs to be strengthened. The only way we’re going to get anywhere with giving farmers greater market power is by giving Australia’s competition watchdog, the ACCC, greater powers by reforming the Competition and Consumer Act.
“The VFF welcomes the federal Coalition’s commitment to a root and branch review of the Act. So far we’ve heard nothing from Labor on matching the Coalition’s commitment.”