MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has become concerned with some aspects of Australia’s bulk grain export supply chains with the release of its2016-17 Bulk Wheat Ports Monitoring Report.

The report examines the nature and concentration of export activity and capacity allocation across Australia’s bulk wheat port terminals.

“While competition is emerging at some ports, other regions remain vertically-integrated near monopolies,” said Cristina Cifuentes, ACCC commissioner. “This is particularly the case in South Australia and Western Australia where Viterra and CBH dominate the bulk grain export market supply chains and compete in the export market.” 

“The ACCC is seeking to ensure that vertically-integrated owners of bulk wheat port infrastructure do not get an increasing and disproportionate share of wheat exports from Australia as a result of their ownership of bottleneck infrastructure,” Cifuentes continued.

The ACCC’s report is a result of consultation with growers, exporters, and port terminal service providers.

“We remain concerned about complaints over several years about the problems some exporters experience accessing bulk handling services both at port and along related supply chains.”

The report highlights the continuing importance of the Port Terminal Access (Bulk Wheat) Code of Conduct.

“The Code plays an important role in ensuring port access for the exporters that buy grain from Australian growers,” Cifuentes said. “Despite emerging competition at some ports, we don’t consider that fair and transparent access to bulk export grain export services would be assured in the absence of the Code.” 

The ACCC monitors and enforces compliance with the Port Terminal Access (Bulk Wheat) Code of Conduct, and also has certain specific roles in relation to port terminal exemptions and capacity allocation systems. The code regulates the conduct of bulk wheat port terminal service providers (PTSPs).

“Without fair and transparent port access, exporters may reduce their participation in export markets, reducing the marketing options for growers and ultimately the price that they can secure for grain,” Cifuentes said. “In the absence of sufficient competition, ensuring port terminal access for all exporters on a fair and transparent basis is critical. This is particularly the case where there is limited competition in other parts of the supply chain.”

The ACCC will undertake monitoring of bulk wheat port terminal services to continue to assess the level of competition at both exempt and non-exempt facilities in the future.

“Given the current state of the Australian bulk grain export market, we consider industry-specific regulation for bulk wheat port terminal services remains necessary and the code should not only be retained but should be improved and strengthened.”