THE AUSTRALIAN Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has handed down a draft finding that GrainCorp will not be exempt from the ACCC administered bulk wheat export port access code for its Portland facility in Victoria.
GrainCorp currently has exemptions for its operations at Geelong in Victoria, Port Kembla and Newcastle in NSW and Brisbane on the grounds of competition from other port operators, but the ACCC has found there is not sufficient competition for an exemption at Portland.
Riordan Grain Services (RGS) have a small grain export facility at Portland, which the ACCC has exempted from the code, but the Riordan facility was not deemed to be sufficient competition to allow GrainCorp an exemption.
"If an exemption is granted to RGS, the ACCC considers that it is likely that exporters of bulk grain from RGS' Portland port terminal facility will have fair and transparent access," the draft finding said.
"However there is not sufficient competitive constraint on GrainCorp's Portland port terminal facility.
"As such, an exemption may lead to risk of detriment to the interests of third party exporters and their ability to obtain fair and transparent access to GrainCorp's Portland port terminal facility, particularly if export volumes and demand for capacity were to increase in subsequent years."
In the draft finding the ACCC also noted GrainCorp's extensive upcountry network which fed into the Port of Portland catchment.
For its part GrainCorp alerted the Australian Stock Exchange of the decision, but said it planned to continue to lobby for the exemption with another submission to the ACCC before the consultation period ends on September 13.
Ashley Fraser, Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) grains group president, said his organisation was pleased with the decision.
He said the group supported the port access code as a means of retaining transparency in regards to port arrangements.
"We want to see fair and equitable access to port facilities for all exporters and we feel that the port access code is one way of ensuring that port operators do not have too much power in the marketplace."