The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's recent findings highlight the need for dairy industry participants to understand their rights and obligations under the Dairy Code of Conduct, says Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) Kate Carnell.
Ms Carnell is strongly encouraging dairy farmers in dispute to contact her office, following the ACCC's three-month inquiry into bargaining power in supply chains for perishable agricultural goods in Australia.
The inquiry examined trading practices throughout supply chains, including relationships between farmers, processors and retailers.
As part of the inquiry, the ACCC was asked to examine issues specific to the dairy industry, including:
- The effectiveness of existing regulation, including the Dairy Code of Conduct, in addressing bargaining power imbalances throughout relevant supply chains.
- The cost of producing milk in different parts of Australia and the extent to which this is taken into account by participants at other levels of the supply chain.
The ACCC's Dairy Code: initial observations on compliance highlighted areas of concern, including:
- Processors failing to publish standard form milk supply agreements on time.
- Processors failing to report on the number and nature of disputes.
The ACCC is continuing to review and investigate code compliance.
Ms Carnell reiterated that her office is ready to provide assistance with disputes that arise under the code.
"The mandatory Dairy Code of Conduct gives Australian dairy farmers a framework to negotiate a fair price for their product," Ms Carnell said.
"The code applies to all milk supply agreements entered into, or amended, on or after January 1, 2020.
"My office can provide small and family business owners in the dairy industry with information on the code, as well as options to resolve disputes and access to mediation and arbitration services.
"The Dairy Code of Conduct provides dairy farmers and other industry participants with avenues for dispute resolution within a fairer framework."
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