Growcom recently met with the Australian Competition Consumer Commission (ACCC) to discuss the roll-out of the new Hort Code and how both organisations, and hopefully the markets as well, can work together to ensure that the incoming Hort Code is successfully adopted by all stakeholders within our industry. It was reassuring to discuss with the ACCC how best to work with Growcom and the wider Queensland horticulture industry to communicate and educate growers on the forthcoming changes.
Growcom supports the new Hort Code on the basis that the Code is enforced and implemented in full. It is also important to acknowledge that the new Code gives the ACCC some "regulatory teeth" in dealing with breaches of the Code through civil penalties and infringement notices. These civil penalties and infringement notices apply equally to growers and wholesalers.
From an industry perspective, it is essential that growers embrace and comply with the new Hort Code requirements when they come into effect. Growers are bound by the new Code and the success of the Code rests on growers, wholesalers and government working constructively throughout all aspects of the implementation.
The ACCC made it clear that while the new Hort Code is designed to be enforced immediately, it intends to work closely with industry to ensure that changes are given a reasonable time to be adopted. Only the most blatant breaches of the Code will initially face enforcement activity. During the transition phase greater attention will be given to education and advice rather than enforcement. Minor or smaller breaches will be dealt with in a practical manner.
Growcom will work constructively with the ACCC, and hopefully the markets, to assist in communicating and educating growers. An education plan is currently being developed and details will become available in the coming weeks. Initially, education and communication will be key aspects of engagement with growers and will hopefully deliver the level of uptake and compliance needed for the new Hort Code to have its intended positive impact.