Paddock Planner referred to ACCC

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Calingiri farmer Gary McGill in his Calingiri wheat.
Camera IconCalingiri farmer Gary McGill in his Calingiri wheat. Credit: Danella Bevis

Australia’s competition watchdog is probing CBH’s bid to gain highly detailed, paddock-specific information from growers through its controversial Paddock Planner.

The Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA has referred the matter to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, citing concerns about privacy, data use, and whether the co-operative would use the information to bargain unfairly.

PGA grains committee chairman Gary McGill sent a letter to the ACCC in June, imploring the watchdog to review the lawfulness of the program.

CBH recently announced it would provide a 50¢ per tonne discount on receival fees for growers who submit their cropping estimate information early via an online mapping tool and use a newly released delivery form app, which replaces manual paperwork, at harvest time.

Last year, receival fees ranged between $8.80/tonne and $15.70/tonne, depending on the type of grain, meaning the discount would be worth about $4000-$5000 to the average farm business producing 8000-10,000 tonnes.

The move triggered concerns the privacy, data use, and whether the co-operative would use the information to bargain unfairly.

Mr McGill said the PGA’s letter focused the need for an “independent adjudicator” to determine whether indicating growers’ planting intentions at the paddock level could have anticompetitive effects.

Mr McGill said the ACCC’s written response noted CBH’s Paddock Planner would give the grain handler and marketer access to anticipated grain production at the paddock level which was not available to other exporters.

In a statement, the ACCC confirmed it had received “communication from WA grain growers, who have concerns about the collection and handling of data”.

The spokesman said it was “considering a response to these concerns” and had not decided if it would investigate.

A CBH spokesman said it was aware the ACCC had been contacted but had not heard from the ACCC.

The company also moved to reassure growers the company’s operations team is the “only team that has access to the information provided in Paddock Planner”.

“Paddock Planner gives CBH the tools and information to better plan and deliver harvest services for growers, and we have to do that in partnership with growers,” he said.

“CBH is obligated to comply with Australian privacy laws in the way it collects, uses, discloses and stores personal information.

“The laws prohibit CBH from using or disclosing information for a purpose other than the purpose for which it was collected, unless the grower consents to their information being shared.

“We restate our commitment that your estimates data is not shared to any third party, including CBH marketing and trading, unless a grower has given specific permission.”

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