Australia’s bulk grain exports were 40.6 million tonnes for 2021–22, and exceeded the previous season’s record by 22 per cent, according to the ACCC’s most recent Bulk grain ports monitoring report published today.
This followed a record total grain production in 2021–22 in Australia of 65.7 million tonnes, an increase of 11 per cent on the previous record in 2020–21.
“Two consecutive seasons of record high-volume harvests created strong demand for export services, and most grain export terminals experienced either the same level or an increase in the number of exporters using their facilities compared to the previous year,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said.
The ACCC’s annual Bulk grain ports monitoring report details exporter and port terminal service providers’ market share, as well as capacity utilisation at Australia’s bulk grain port terminal facilities. This provides industry with timely and consolidated market data and analysis not readily available from other sources.
A record number of 32 exporters participated in the national bulk grain export market in 2021–22, including two new mobile loader operations. However, several facilities are predominantly being used by a small number of exporters.
“The addition of new mobile loader operations provided extra options and pathways to export Australian grain at a time of record demand,” Mr Keogh said.
“While additional bulk export facilities were a welcome development, it is unclear whether the recent increase in the number of port terminal services providers and exporters will prove to be a long-term trend,” Mr Keogh said.
The ACCC has limited information about the quality of service provided by port terminal service providers, as it does not receive service providers’ financial information, the terms and conditions of access provided to exporters, nor information on the broader supply chain.
The ACCC has published an annual Bulk grain ports monitoring report since 2016. These reports are part of the ACCC’s role in ensuring that exporters of bulk wheat have fair and transparent access to port terminal services in accordance with the Port Terminal Access (bulk Wheat) Code of Conduct. A significant share of Australian bulk grain port export capacity is operated by vertically integrated organisations, which operate the facilities but are also grain exporters which compete with their exporter customers.
Bulk grain port terminal facilities are essential infrastructure in the export wheat supply chain. If access constraints emerge at bulk grain port terminal facilities or operators use monopoly powers to charge higher prices, the competitiveness and profitability of affected wheat producers and exporters is at risk.
The Code was introduced in 2014, and reviewed in 2017, although the recommendations arising from that review have not yet been implemented. The regulations which enable the Code required that a second Code review commence by 22 September 2022, although this was recently amended to delay this review until 2025. The regulations which enable the Code are currently scheduled to sunset on 1 October 2024. The ACCC continues to consider that a second review of the Code should occur as soon as practicable.
Some grains industry stakeholders have recently called for the ACCC to undertake a broader grains market inquiry. It is a matter for the Australian Government to determine whether it wishes to direct the ACCC to conduct such an inquiry
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