Grain Producers Australia acknowledges the Federal Government’s consideration of a request for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the national grains market – and decision not to proceed, at this point in time.
GPA Chair Barry Large said this request spearheaded GPA’s list of policy priorities for the 2022 Federal Election, seeking a proactive examination of the deregulated market’s progress since 2008, to consider key issues and make recommendations for improvements to optimise competition.
Mr Large said Labor responded to GPA’s priorities during the election campaign, promising to hold talks with industry, if elected, regarding the request for an ACCC inquiry; including meeting to better understand the basis of current concerns.
He said GPA also requested a Roundtable of industry stakeholders to address these matters – and discuss supply chain issues – to be held within 100 days of the election, which did not proceed.
“Agriculture Minister Murray Watt has now written to GPA putting a line under this matter, for the time being. We thank him for his response and consideration of these issues,” he said.
“Whilst we’re disappointed this proactive inquiry has not proceeded under a Labor government which deregulated the wheat export market, we appreciate the Minister’s engagement with growers to hear our concerns about pricing disparity and competition issues.
“We also acknowledge the Minister being open to reconsider these matters in future, if needed.”
Mr Large said it was disappointing the ACCC’s Agricultural Unit was not given the green light to conduct an inquiry into the grains market; given it was established in 2015 to examine competition matters in agricultural supply chains, with specific powers and expertise.
“Given we’re talking about billions of dollars in potential lost value for the national economy during big harvests such as those we’ve seen in recent years, we maintain the view that an independent, proactive ‘health check’ of the grain market and supply chain remains pertinent,” he said.
“Options are available – not only the ACCC’s Agricultural Unit or the Productivity Commission – to independently consider these matters and the potential shared benefits.”
Mr Large said GPA would continue to push for reforms to ensure growers were protected from misuse of market power and competition settings were optimal.
He said Labor had also noted GPA’s election policy request to pursue a high-level strategic analysis of the national grains supply chain, to explore ways to invest in reducing freight costs and capturing greater value for participants.
“We urge anyone with concerns and information about these competition matters to discuss them with GPA, to ensure we remain vigilant in protecting the interests of grain producers,” he said.
“GPA will also be working with our members to gather information, in making a submission to the current review of the Wheat Port Code that’s currently scheduled to sunset on 1 October 2024.”