Australian vegetable growers today called on the Federal Government to reconfirm their pre-election commitment to the introduction of a Mandated Horticulture Code of Conduct.

The call comes after the new Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile, yesterday stated that he was unaware of the pre-election commitment made by the then Deputy PM John Anderson to mandate a Horticulture Code of Conduct within 100 days of a returned government. Mr. Vaile also stated that he preferred a voluntary rather than mandated approach.

Mr Michael Badcock, the Chairman of AUSVEG, The Australian Vegetable and Potato Growers Federation, expressed deep concern over Mr. Vaile’s comments.

‘I hope the Deputy PM’s comments are simply a reflection that he is not across the issue, but I have to say that its simply not good enough that the Deputy PM does not know his own government policy,’ said Mr Badcock.

‘At a time when the horticultural industry is under threat from cheap imports and declining terms of trade, we need clear and unequivocal support from the government, not mixed messages.

‘The fruit and vegetable industry needs the mandated horticulture code of conduct as a core part of achieving its global competitiveness.

‘An efficient and functional marketplace is the foundation from which a progressive industry can grow, all horticulture voluntary codes have failed in the past and if we don’t get the mandated code through, the dysfunctional market arrangements will continue to be an impediment to our industry growth.

The latest controversy comes on the back of an industry Crisis Meeting organised by AUSVEG last week, which detailed a gloomy future for Australia’s vegetable growers without broad policy change from government. A key part of these policy changes included:
�the reformation of the wholesale market sector through the introduction of the mandatory horticulture code of conduct
�strengthening country of origin labelling regulations
�the introduction of a requirement for importers to demonstrate that their products have been grown in a way consistent with Australian regulations relating to protecting workers rights, the environment, food safety and food quality.

AUSVEG has established a $2 million fighting fund to help save the industry. The proceeds are to be used to promote the industry to consumers and to lobby for legislative and regulatory changes. Donations can be made to the AUSVEGGIE Fighting Fund at any National Australia Bank branch.