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The deregulation of the Australian grains industry has not led to a fully competitive grain export market. Due to previous state monopoly structures surrounding rail transport and grain handling a small number of operators dominate the market.

From 2008 to 2014, bulk wheat port access issues were governed by the Wheat Export Marketing Act 2008. The Act required that port terminal operators with a wheat exporting business must pass an ‘access test’ as a condition of export. This involved these port operators having to develop, and have approved, an access undertaking with the ACCC.

In October 2014 the Australian Government replaced the Act with a mandatory Port Access Code of Conduct. Under the code port terminal operators are no longer required to develop individual agreements with the ACCC, instead needing to comply with the code. The code also applies to all port terminal operators, not just those with associated wheat export businesses, to ensure that regulation is applied more consistently.

The code requires port terminal operators to comply with a range of provisions improving the transparency of port terminal operations. For example, port terminal operators will be required to:

allocate available port terminal capacity through a mechanism which applies equally to all exporters;

  • publish certain information on its website, such as the amount of capacity available on a weekly and annual basis, and key performance indicators;
  • undertake a process for amendments to port loading protocols, including the requirement to consult; and
  • comply with dispute resolution processes. If a port operator is made exempt from the code it is still required to comply with certain provisions such as:
  • publish a daily statement about ships due to load at the port (a shipping stem); - publish standard information about allocated capacity and demand for their services; and
  • publish standard terms and reference prices available to all exporters.
Our Position

For growers to benefit from a deregulated grains market, it is imperative that smaller grain exporters are able to access essential infrastructure and that measures are in place to ensure the major operators, with a high degree of market power, cannot use their position to influence the market in an anti-competitive manner.

Given the current level of competition and ownership structures that exist, a mandatory Port Access Code regime managed by the ACCC will encourage transparency in the market and ensure a sufficient level of competition at Australia’s grain ports. GrainGrowers supports the 3 year review of this Code (due in 2017).