AUSTRALIA'S monster 2021-22 harvest, combined with ravenous world demand for our grain in light of the Ukraine conflict meaning limited world access to grain out of the Black Sea region for much of the year has seen the country smash previous grain export records.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, in its Bulk Grain Ports monitoring report said Australia exported a whopping 40.6 million tonnes of grain in bulk consignments for the 2021-22 marketing year.
This is a 22 per cent increase on 2020-21, which was the previous record for bulk grain exports and accounted for around two thirds of Australia's total winter crop production of 65.7m tonnes.
ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said the combination of carry-over from 2020-21 and the big 2021-22 harvest meant port terminal operators were in strong demand.
"Most grain export terminals experienced either the same level or an increase in the number of exporters using their facilities compared to the previous year," Mr Keogh said.
The ACCC report looked at exporter and port terminal service providers' market share, as well as capacity utilisation at Australia's bulk grain port terminal facilities.
In spite of concerns among the production sector about a concentration of exports, the report found a record number of 32 exporters participated in the national bulk grain export market in 2021-22, including two new mobile loader operations.
However, growers will be quick to point the report also said several facilities are predominantly being used by a small number of exporters.
Mr Keogh said the added competition provided by start-up port operators was helping the nation export the big crop.
"The addition of new mobile loader operations provided extra options and pathways to export Australian grain at a time of record demand," he said.
However, he cautioned it was too early to assess whether there would be more start-up exports providing services.
"While additional bulk export facilities were a welcome development, it is unclear whether the recent increase in the number of port terminal services providers and exporters will prove to be a long-term trend," Mr Keogh said.
He said the ACCC conducted the report as a health check on the export supply chain.
"Bulk grain port terminal facilities are essential infrastructure in the export wheat supply chain."
"If access constraints emerge at bulk grain port terminal facilities or operators use monopoly powers to charge higher prices, the competitiveness and profitability of affected wheat producers and exporters is at risk."
Mr Keogh said a review of the current port access code was on the table, with the ACCC wanting a review done as soon as possible although he said calls for an inquiry into grain marketing more broadly would have to be commissioned by the government.