Growing in confidence
By MEL MARTIN
THIS week's announcement of a mandatory code of conduct for the wholesale horticulture sector will finally give fruit and vege- table growers some security, according to local growers.
"At the moment, when we send our produce to wholesale markets, we rely on the honesty of agents to tell us what it sold for," treasurer of the Hydroponics Association of the Mid North Coast and owner of Capalana Hydroponics in Boambee Ellen McNulty said.
"While I believe most agents are honest, we have no way of verifying what they tell us."
Local tropical fruit grower Ted Knoblock agrees, saying a lot of growers were dissatisfied with the current system.
He explained that while growers had two options when sending their produce to wholesale markets ? on consignment, with the produce selling for whatever the going rate on the day, or for an agreed price with the agent ? most chose the consignment option, leaving them vulnerable.
"A lot of markets still deal with cash in a big way, and there is no way growers can really know what their produce has sold for," he said.
"Markets have violently opposed this mandatory code claiming it would add another branch of bureaucracy. That's probably true, but all we ask for is to know what our produce sold for and to whom, and the amount of commission.
"This code of conduct, will pretty much give us that."
Federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran made the announcement this week following a wholehearted industry rejection of a voluntary code previously proposed.
"The mandatory code will clarify the responsibilities and obligations of growers and wholesale traders, and improve the transparency of transactions across the fresh fruit and vegetable industry," Mr McGauran said.
"I am confident the necessary regulations will be passed by the Parliament by the end of the year, with the mandatory code to be enacted soon afterwards."
The code has been also been widely welcomed nationally, with AUSVEG chairman Michael Badcock saying it would lead to a greater level of accountability and fairness.
"By encouraging good business practice, the code will reduce the current trend of growers avoiding the wholesale markets, because they know they will get a fair deal," he said.
But the Australian Chamber of Fruit and Vegetable Industries, which represents fruit and vegetable wholesalers, said implementation of the code would cost millions and growers would end up having to foot the bill.