A Sydney fruit and vegetable wholesaler has become the first business to pay a $10,500 infringement notice for an alleged breach of the new Horticulture Code.
The code was updated last year to include penalties for non-compliance.
Stuart Dickson Produce was issued with the infringement notice for allegedly trading with a grower in horticulture produce without having a written horticulture produce agreement (HPA) in place.
Stuart Dickson’s alleged non-compliance with the 2017 Horticulture Code came to light following a compliance check the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission conducted with 15 fruit and vegetable wholesalers.
The check revealed the produce company did not have a HPA in place with a significant number of growers.
“A wholesaler trading with growers without written HPAs increases growers’ commercial risks, as they do not have certainty regarding critical terms of trade, such as how their produce will be graded, the price they will get paid and when they will get paid,” said ACCC deputy chairman, Mick Keogh.
“Horticulture wholesalers have been required since 2006 to have written agreements in place with growers under the mandatory industry code, and they should be careful to ensure they understand their obligations under the code.
“There is no good excuse for not having written agreements in place when this has been a requirement for 12 years.”
The 2017 Horticulture Code applies to all growers and wholesalers trading in horticulture produce, including fruit, vegetables, herbs and nuts, and replaced a previous code.
A key requirement of both the current and preceding codes has been that horticulture wholesalers trade with written HPAs in place.
Prior to the 2017 Horticulture Code coming into full force in April this year, the ACCC worked with industry bodies to conduct education and awareness around the new Code’s requirements, including the fact that infringement notices could be issued.
“Now that the compliance and education stage is complete, the ACCC will not hesitate to take enforcement action for breaches of the Code,” Mr Keogh said.
“That includes taking court action to seek penalties in the future.
“We are continuing to consider a number of matters involving potential breaches of the 2017 Horticulture Code.”