CBH sweats on ACCC approval

30 Sep, 2009 02:45 PM
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CBH Group this week was contemplating the possibility it would not be able to export wheat from today (Thursday) after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) formally rejected the group’s port access undertaking.

All of Australia’s three big storage and grain handlers, CBH, GrainCorp and ABB Grain, who own and operate the major grain export facilities around the country, had their port access undertakings formally rejected by the ACCC last Wednesday.

The port access undertakings are required as part of the new deregulated bulk wheat export environment where scores of exporters want use of the facilities without being placed at a disadvantage to the big three, who are also exporters.

The ACCC decision prevents Wheat Exports Australia (WEA) from re-accrediting the big three to export wheat in bulk. If they failed to achieve ACCC approval by yesterday, they would have to go through the process of applying for a new wheat export licence and providing port access undertakings again.

CBH Group chief executive officer Andy Crane said he hoped that, if necessary, its further application for accreditation would be dealt with expeditiously.

“Grain Pool will have alternative arrangements in place to ensure existing commitments to its international wheat customers are fulfilled until its application can be accepted,” Dr Crane said.

“Over the past year CBH has devoted considerable resources to working with the ACCC with the aim of having its port access undertaking approved by September 30 (yesterday).”

CBH received formal notification last Wednesday from the ACCC that the group’s initial proposed undertaking submitted in April was not accepted and CBH had responded with a revised undertaking the following day.

ACCC deputy chairman Peter Kell told ABC Radio that the commission had provided guidance to the big three on what changes were needed to ensure port access undertakings were acceptable, and how they could improve their undertakings to get over the line.

Mr Kell said the ACCC, for its part, would do its best to ensure yesterday’s deadline was met but he also said it depended on how the parties responded to its guidance on what was needed.

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