Senator Dean Smith backs Grain Producers Australia’s calls for an ACCC probe into nation’s grain supply chain

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Cally DupeCountryman
Liberal Senator Dean Smith.
Camera IconLiberal Senator Dean Smith. Credit: Ross Swanborough/The West Australian

Liberal Senator Dean Smith has thrown his support behind calls for a probe into the grains supply chain amid claims difficulty getting grain to port have cost farmers more than $1 billion this year.

Mr Smith — who was named shadow assistant minister for competition, charities and treasury last month — this week called on the Federal Government to instruct the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to launch a market study into the nations grains supply chain.

National advocacy group Grain Producers Australia has been ramping up calls for the market study it says would provide “independent analysis and reforms to resolve lingering competition issues affecting growers”.

Camera IconCBH’s Kwinana Grain Terminal. Credit: Danella Bevis/Danella Bevis

This included concerns Australian grains prices were below world parity, a point disputed by grain traders, despite GPA analysis suggesting about 25mt of the recent 62mt harvest would be exported at a $50/t discount.

GPA and its WA chair Barry Large believe the total amount lost would exceed $1.25 billion.

As the Coalition’s spokesman for competition matters, Mr Smith said the nation’s grains industry was backboned by a “commitment by growers and government to the principles of competition and transparency”.

“The convergence of supply chain challenges and labour shortages in the agriculture and logistics sectors, combined with the impact of war in Ukraine, makes the timing of an independent review into competition issues critical,” Mr Smith said.

“My strong preference is for the market analysis to be undertaken by the ACCC.

“The ACCC is purpose-built to inquire into competition issues and the inquiry should make full use of its information-gathering powers.”

Mr Smith’s comments come after eight years after he backed WA farming communities in opposing attempts to re-regulate Australia’s wheat exports in 2014, instead pushing for full deregulation.

Legislation to fully deregulate the industry was passed by Parliament in 2012.

Since 2014, the ACCC has enforced and monitored the Wheat Ports Code, which regulates bulk wheat port terminal operators to ensure exporters have fair and transparent access to terminal facilities.

An ACCC report last year revealed Australian farmers relied more directly on the prices they received almost more than any other farmers around the world.

“For this reason alone, the market requires more regular health checks,” Mr Smith said.

“It is vital that, as Australia enjoys record grain seasons, this financial windfall is passed on to growers and the regional communities that depend on them.

“The export competitiveness of Australia’s agriculture sector has been driven by its transparency and this must continue for it to reach its remarkable potential.

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