Push for Mandatory Compliance and Stronger Protections for Suppliers

12 April 2024

The Federal Government has this week released the interim independent Review Report on the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct.

This code is extremely important for primary producers, particularly smaller suppliers to the major supermarkets. The guidelines are designed to ensure a fair relationship between sellers and buyers, by fostering transparency and trust within the supply chain. In the end, its purpose is to benefit consumers at the checkout.

The code is designed to address the power imbalance between both parties when it comes to negotiations, contracts and dispute-resolution processes. Ultimately the code should contribute to a more competitive and effective market.

Independent Reviewer, Dr Craig Emerson, because of his review, he has made three firm recommendations to the government, the first to suggest the Code of Conduct be made mandatory with penalties of $10 million or more in cases of more serious breaches.

This is an important step, as the code has always been voluntary with no penalties and supermarkets have never had to remain a signatory to the code if it did not suit them.

The second key recommendation and an issue that featured in the recent Senate enquiry related to the fear of retribution should suppliers seek to have the code enforced. The report recommends greater protections for those making complaints, including the introduction of a confidential complaint process and access to independent dispute resolution.

The final recommendation is to tighten provisions that allow supermarkets to exempt themselves from certain parts of the code and avoid compliance. Tightening these provisions will ensure supermarkets cannot evade their responsibilities and ensure greater compliance.

The next challenge will be ensuring the government gives the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission enough power so that when an infringement is identified, there is a realistic chance of a successful prosecution in court.

Where monopolies exist, the government must hold them accountable for any anti-competitive behaviour.

In other news at TasFarmers we are excited to announce the appointment of Neil Gross in the role of Advocacy and Projects Leader. Many of you will know Neil from his service to the business community as the Executive Officer of the Launceston Chamber of Commerce and important work at the Bell Bay Advanced Manufacturing Zone.

Neil is committed to fostering collaborative relationships and his strategic acumen and passion for farming position him to have a positive impact on the Tasmania agricultural landscape.