GRAIN grower groups continue to nominate a market inquiry into potential competition issues as their major priority from a new government in the lead-up to the federal election this weekend.
Both Grain Producers Australia (GPA) and Grain Growers want to see an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission inquiry looking into competition issues impacting the Australian grains market, to help safeguard growers.
Grain Growers chairman Brett Hosking said he believed the time for such an inquiry was right, given there had been no systematic review since deregulation of the wheat industry in 2008.
"We feel that a look into how the system is working and whether there is more that could be done to help with efficiencies, would be good for the entire industry," Mr Hosking said.
GPA chairman Barry Large said growers had been contacting his organisation over the past six months concerned by prices that appeared to be well below world parity, a point disputed by Australian grain traders.
He said in response GPA had written to both major parties and selected minor parties and independents seeking their responses on whether they backed the ACCC market study.
Mr Large said he had been encouraged by the response from the ALP.
"We're strongly encouraged by Labor's interest to discuss the ACCC market study policy along with the merits of conducting a high-level strategic analysis of the infrastructure and investment needs of the Australian grains supply chain, to reduce grain freight costs, and what that means for both producers and consumers," Mr Large said.
However, Mr Large said in contrast the coalition's response was disappointing and supported the status quo continuing despite GPA formally submitting this request to Minister Littleproud as far back as mid-March, along with an evidence-gathering report conducted last harvest highlighting competition issues.
He said while the coalition's response to other pre-election priorities had been good, in regards to the proposed review GPA was not pleased with the lukewarm reply.
Mr Large said GPA's own research indicated a significant amount of dollars were not making their way to grower pockets.
"Among a range of serious findings regarding competition failures, GPA's analysis and report found that about 25 million tonnes of grain is expected to be exported from the last harvest at a $50 per tonne discount."
He said without the power to compel industry bodies, such as grain traders and bulk handlers, to provide information a fully transparent view of the industry would not be achieved, which is why GPA is lobbying for ACCC to fill the role.
"We are calling on the government to utilise the ACCC's special powers, to investigate how and why this significant value is being lost for local growers, rural communities and the national economy, while examining other critical issues regarding the misuse of market power."
However, previously the peak body for grain traders, Grain Trade Australia, has said that the issue of low basis, or cash prices below international futures, does not accurately reflect the international supply and demand issues at play, with US futures far above world cash prices due to technical factors.
GPA southern region director Andrew Weidemann said the proposed review was a textbook case of where the ACCC's agricultural unit should be utilised.
"It is all especially disappointing given this government established the ACCC's agriculture unit in 2015 to address specific competition issues in the agricultural sector, in order to protect growers who are ultimately price takers and therefore vulnerable participants in these supply chains," Mr Weidemann said.
Other areas identified by GPA as priorities for government included boosting sustainability and economic resilience for growers and regional communities. strengthening biosecurity protections, increased focus on local manufacturing and expanding market access for Australian grains.