THE sole provider of fruit and vegetable wholesale marketing price reports says he was the "meat in the sandwich" during the recent Horticulture Code of Conduct debate.
In February, the federal government released its response to the independent review of the Horticulture Code of Conduct, which was largely well received among industry representative groups.
However, an ongoing sticking point has been that of price transparency with growers claiming there isn't enough and wholesalers saying the system works as best it can.
The Horticulture Code of Conduct is scheduled to sunset in about a month's time.
Brisbane-based Ausmarket Consultants provides up-to-date daily, weekly, monthly and historic (20+ years) information on the wholesale prices of produce at the four major fresh produce wholesale markets throughout the country.
Business principal, Jon Brewer, has previously said unfounded criticism, mainly from the grower sector, has the potential to affect the viability of existing market reporting services.
He has also said he wants to work closer with the growers to try and alleviate the negative perception some of them have towards the service.
Fruit and vegetable market price reporting services throughout Australia were privatised progressively from the early 1990s onward, from a state government-funded arrangement to a user-pays model.
The methodology of market reporting has evolved over time to improve accuracy through validation but is still seen by some sectors as too brief.
Mr Brewer said the privatised reporting services have been operating effectively after more than 20 years without any outside or direct industry funding and have a growing client base across all sectors of the industry.
"Growers have been the most reluctant to accept this change and this is possibly the underlying cause for much of the criticism around cost and accessibility," he said.
He said the next generation of growers are more tech savvy and there is the opportunity to offer growers cost effective information directed more towards their individual needs.
As a result of calls for other price reporting options, Horticulture Innovation Australia (HIA), put out a tender for a "Feasibility study to collect and report wholesale market price information for the Australian vegetable industry (VG15057)".
It is expected to be completed in the first half of this year.
Mr Brewer was in Sydney recently to meet with key members of industry to discuss the findings from the tender process.
"There is no guarantee or evidence that any alternatives that have been proposed are achievable, desirable or affordable," Mr Brewer said.
"This raises the possibility of leaving the industry with no price reporting services at all and the loss of irreplaceable historic data."
He said a departure from the straight-forward "agency style trading" of the eighties to the more complex hybrid model of trading was a change many in the industry had struggled with.
"This is not a market price reporting issue but a failure of all parties to put in place and regulate a universally acceptable trading mechanism which includes appropriate price disclosure and transparency," Mr Brewer said.
He said the failure of the Horticultural Code of Conduct to address the apparent concerns of growers, despite much fanfare and considerable expenditure, led to market price reporting becoming the scapegoat.
"There is an expectation that growers will have access to prices paid by buyers for their individual lines of produce in real time via a market reporting service," Mr Brewer said.
"This was not the intent or purpose of market price reports which are and have always been intended to provide an independent overview of pricing on the day and for benchmarking purposes.
"There is a need and a role for price disclosure as well as for price reporting. They are not one and the same thing."
He said the reporting services are, and have always been, ready and willing to work with all sectors of the industry, especially growers, to improve perceptions of accessibility, accuracy and timeliness of their outputs.
Mr Brewer said he hopes industry can work together and that growers have input on how they would like to access the available information.
The story Markets price reporter responds to flak in Hort Code debate first appeared on Good Fruit & Vegetables.