Clar­ity for grow­ers

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - News - PAT HANNAN Grow­com CEO

GROW­COM is pleased to launch its tem­plates to as­sist grow­ers in the devel­op­ment of their hor­ti­cul­ture pro­duce agree­ments (HPA) re­quired un­der the Hor­ti­cul­ture Code of Con­duct.

The tem­plates have been de­vel­oped with sig­nif­i­cant in­put from solic­i­tors, grow­ers and grower or­gan­i­sa­tions around Aus­tralia. This process has taken some time but it was im­por­tant to get it right.

It is our view that these tem­plates are a use­ful start­ing point for ne­go­ti­a­tions around the hor­ti­cul­ture pro­duce agree­ment and pro­vide a clear and easy to un­der­stand out­line of the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of both par­ties. Grow­ers can choose to pur­sue ei­ther an agency or mer­chant style agree­ment with their whole­saler or pack­house, depend­ing on the pref­er­ence of both par­ties.

Fun­da­men­tally an agency agree­ment means the trader never owns the pro­duce and is paid a com­mis­sion for ser­vices ren­dered, whereas un­der a mer­chant agree­ment the trader takes on own­er­ship and a level of risk.

While we are happy to pro­vide grow­ers with these tem­plates, feed­back from the work­shops we con­ducted with more than 300 grow­ers across Queens­land high­lighted every com­mod­ity is dif­fer­ent and it is im­por­tant to cus­tomise these tem­plates to suit each busi­ness.

Grow­ers must check the terms and con­di­tions of any HPA they en­ter into. Dis­ap­point­ingly, the tem­plate de­vel­oped by Fresh Mar­kets As­so­ci­a­tion and widely dis­trib­uted by the whole­sale sec­tor has a vague def­i­ni­tion of de­liv­ery and places un­fair li­a­bil­ity on to grow­ers.

In a let­ter sent to Grow­com, the ACCC stated: “We re­main con­cerned that the mer­chant tem­plate is in­con­sis­tent with the Hor­ti­cul­ture Code’s ob­jec­tive of pro­vid­ing greater trans­parency and clar­ity re­gard­ing hor­ti­cul­ture pro­duce agree­ments. We are also con­scious that a mer­chant might im­ple­ment these ar­range­ments in a way that has the ef­fect of shift­ing sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial risk to a grower. While it would de­pend on the cir­cum­stances and con­sid­er­a­tion of a range of fac­tors, terms such as these may raise is­sues un­der the Aus­tralian Con­sumer Law (ACL), such as the un­fair con­tract terms pro­vi­sions.”

It is a le­gal re­quire­ment to have a HPA un­der the Hor­ti­cul­ture Code but if grow­ers feel pres­sured to sign con­tracts un­favourable to their busi­ness, it breaches un­fair trad­ing leg­is­la­tion and can be dealt with by the ACCC.

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