THE Australian Consumer and Competition Commission will not exempt Viterra’s services at its Port Lincoln and Thevenard facilities from parts of the Port Terminal Access (Bulk Wheat) Code.
The decision means the South Australian grain handler will continue to be subject to the non-discrimination requirements of the code at the two facilities. The company must also provide access-related dispute resolution processes for exporters.
Viterra will also continue to require ACCC approval for any changes made to its capacity allocation systems and must publish certain information about expected capacity and bulk grain stocks held at these port terminals.
ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said, “After looking at the South Australian grain industry and latest shipping data in detail, we consider that Viterra doesn’t currently face sufficient competition at its Port Lincoln and Thevenard facilities to justify removing certain protections for independent exporters seeking to export wheat through these ports.
“We acknowledge that T-Ports’ Lucky Bay operation now provides an alternative export pathway for certain areas of the Eyre Peninsula, particularly the eastern section. However, at this time we consider that the higher level of protections for exporters under the code is needed to ensure they can continue to gain fair and transparent access to Viterra’s facilities.
“We believe that not exempting Port Lincoln and Thevenard will deliver the best outcomes for growers and the industry at this point in time,” Mr Keogh said.
“We will continue to closely monitor competition as the market changes.”
Under the Bulk Wheat Code, Viterra is also required to deal with exporters in good faith, publish a port loading statement and loading procedures, and make standard terms and reference prices available in relation to all of its port terminal facilities.
Viterra made applications to be exempt from Parts 3 to 6 of the code at all six of its South Australian port terminals in July 2019.
In April 2021, the ACCC made final determinations exempting Viterra’s Inner Harbour and Outer Harbor facilities in Port Adelaide where there is more competition. However, the commission determined not to exempt Viterra’s Port Giles and Wallaroo facilities due to lower levels of competition.
Given recent changes in the Eyre Peninsula port terminal services market, the ACCC said it considered the peak period of the 2020-21 shipping season to be of particular relevance to its assessment of Viterra’s Port Lincoln and Thevenard exemption applications.
As such, the ACCC separated its final determinations for Viterra’s Port Lincoln and Thevenard facilities from its consideration of other South Australian ports, to consider new information relevant to these assessments.