Disappointed farmers want supermarket giants to play fair
AFTER 12 months of heated negotiations over a voluntary code of conduct for the multi-billion-dollar grocery sector, the National Farmers' Federation has lost faith with the plan.
The negotiations, which involved Woolworths, Coles and the Australian Food and Grocery Council, were an effort to find a middle ground between the interests of the big retailers, processors and primary producers.
But NFF president Jock Laurie said on Wednesday that despite working good faith for a year on the voluntary code, the farm lobby was renewing calls for a mandatory code to be imposed by the federal government.
Mr Laurie said the key now was for all parties to the negotiations to come together to identify the key issues, despite the many months that went into identifying those same issues.
He said while the group had found the broad themes and issues of contention between farmers, processors and retailers, the detailed work was yet to be done.
Mr Laurie said he remained concerned the supermarket sector in particular could abuse its massive buying power and market control to the detriment of farmers.
"Importantly, we will only support a mandatory code that has real teeth; that is able to identify areas of concern to farmers and address these. This would include appropriate penalties," he said.
"At the moment, farmers are left exposed, which is why our members have strongly called for Government action."
Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury, who has worked on the proposal with Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig, said he looked forward to all participants working together.