In March 2018, the Australian Government announced an independent review of the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct, a voluntary code which regulates the conduct of supermarket retailers and wholesalers that have agreed to be bound by it in their dealings with suppliers.

This review has now released its draft report and is calling for submissions with comments to help refine this draft, including the recommendations and findings listed in the report.

The full report covers off on an extensive list of terms of reference, including the extent to which retailers and wholesalers have become bound by the Code, how much the Code assists in addressing any imbalances in risks held by retailers and their suppliers, and whether the Code should be voluntary or mandatory.

Some of the key findings from the draft report include:

  • The reviewers believe that it is preferable to keep the Code voluntary rather than mandatory; however, they recommend a separate mandatory code should be created to apply to major players who should be signatories to the voluntary Code, but refuse to do so. This finding is targeted primarily at Metcash.
  • There should be an independent Code Adjudicator embedded in every retailer and wholesaler that signs up to the Code. This Adjudicator would consider complaints from suppliers and be able to make decisions that are binding on retailers to help resolve disputes.
  • While there is a perceived inequity between areas of the horticulture sector due to having a mandatory Horticulture Code governing some transactions and the voluntary Food and Grocery Code governing others, the review does not believe this difference is creating imbalances, and instead believes the separate codes are addressing different sets of problems.

The consultation period for this draft is now open if you would like to provide feedback on these or any other of the report’s findings. Submissions close on 1 August 2018.

You can read the full report and learn how to make a submission on the review’s website.

This post appeared in the AUSVEG Weekly Update published 3 July 2018. Subscribe to the Update using our online form to receive the latest industry news in your inbox every week!