The federal government is proceeding with its proposed food industry code despite the refusal of Metcash to sign the legally-backed document.

Australian Food and Grocery Council chief Gary Dawson and Small Business Minister Bruce Billson launched the code today with Metcash’s support, but without its signature.

The code was pushed by Coles and Woolworths to help mediate disputes between suppliers and the big retailers.

It is understood Aldi has said it will support the code and sign the document, meaning Metcash (MTS) the only one of the big retailers not to sign up.

The code details dispute resolution and lays down general guidelines for retailer and supplier dealings.

It will ultimately be enforced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

It will be a prescribed code, which means it must be passed by parliament to take effect.

Mr Billson has pushed the code as a key support measure for small suppliers.

It comes after Coles last year settled two ACCC suits admitting to harsh and unconscionable conduct in its dealing with suppliers.

Coles has since drawn up its own code of conduct and has appointed former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett as an independent arbiter in supplier disputes.

Mr Billson was hoping to get all four retailers to sign on to the document and changed the definition of “wholesaler” in an attempt to induce Metcash to sign.

But the retailer cites compliance difficulties as its reason not to sign the document.

It says it is still working through the issues.

Extracted in full from The Australian.