Wheat ports operating fairly but current harvest may test access regime in 2017

15 December 2016

A new monitoring report of bulk wheat ports examining the 2015-16 shipping year has found that port terminal owners were not generally obstructing access or receiving a disproportionate share of port terminal capacity, following the lessening of regulation at some ports last year.

“Our report found bulk wheat port terminal service providers have generally not increased their market shares to the detriment of access seekers, following the exemption applications granted by the ACCC last year,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.  

The ACCC’s Bulk Wheat Ports Monitoring report, which examined the nature and concentration of export activity and capacity allocation across Australia’s bulk wheat port terminals, also found that there was significant spare port terminal capacity available in 2015-16. 

“There was an excess of export capacity at many port terminals over the past year, which has provided access seekers with greater opportunities for their export programs. Access seekers have also benefited from new port developments across the country, with greater competition on price and service across many port zones,” Mr Sims said.

“However, this was not a particularly high production or export year, and while stakeholders are reporting that most port terminal operators are demonstrating greater flexibility in their engagement with access seekers, the ACCC is reserving judgement until the system is faced with a bumper harvest. Therefore the ACCC will not be revisiting the exemption decisions made in 2015 at this stage, but we note that the current harvest is expected to be one of the biggest on record.”

The report also highlights the continuing regional differences in competitive pressures in the bulk wheat export market. Stakeholders reported that access can be more uncertain in those port zones where there is limited port terminal capacity, as well as limited competition or access to alternative markets. In such locations, the Port Terminal Access (Bulk Wheat) Code of Conduct (the Code) remains an important means by which to facilitate third party access in a fair and transparent manner. Many of the findings on regional differences reflect conclusions from the ACCC exemption decisions.

The report is available: Bulk Wheat Ports Monitoring report 2015-16

Background

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 ACCC’s role in relation to the Code replaces its previous wheat export function whereby it assessed port terminal services access undertakings for bulk wheat export under Part IIIA of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.

The ACCC considered it would be appropriate to undertaking 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.

The ACCC intends that this report will be released annually while the Code is in operation, and over time will enable the ACCC to monitor the effect of further deregulation of the industry and greater competition between some port terminals.

 

Release number: 
MR 239/16
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