FEDERAL Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran has promised he will not undermine the single export desk when allocating special bulk wheat export permits for this wheat harvest, despite calls for licences to be awarded earlier than in 2006 to avoid unnecessary delay and confusion.
AWB has maintained its monopoly on wheat exports for this harvest but additional exporters can apply for export permits under changes introduced last year.
While the export of wheat in bags and containers has been deregulated, companies wanting to export in bulk have to apply to for a license through Mr McGauran.
He holds the power of veto to grant bulk export permits for this harvest and can approve or reject applications where appropriate.
Under the legislation he is required to consider each application on a case by case basis, summing up what¹s best for the public interest.
Speaking exclusively to Farm Weekly parent company Rural Press last week, Mr McGauran declined to say whether he had received any request for export permits so far but hinted the process may have already started.
He also acknowledged there was a need for earlier decision making in this year¹s process but declined to say if recent changes to the Wheat Marketing Act would make it more or less difficult for him to knock-back applications this year.
³I am not working to any specific formula with respect to the timing of any additional export permits,² Mr McGauran said.
³A lot depends on the size of the crop, but you can safely say it will not be a free-for-all.
³My intention is not to undermine the single desk.²
More than 70 grain marketing companies made applications to export wheat last year, with only two being successful.
CBH was awarded a licence to export 500,000 tonnes direct to its Asian flour mills, while Wheat Australia, a consortium formed by ABB Grain, GrainCorp and CBH, was also awarded a license to ship 300,000t to Iraq.
While more applications are expected to be made this year, changes to the system have not improved the response waiting time, and as a result have been widely criticised by farming and business community leaders from across the nation, including the Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) in WA.
Most of the criticism has centred on the fact the new system failed to provide growers with any more certainty than what they faced in 2006, when most growers warehoused their wheat while waiting for the government to decide if any license applications would be approved.