Viterra’s ABB wing cleared for wheat exports

Australian regulators have approved the revised port access plan proposed by Viterra’s new Australian subsidiary, ABB Grain, allowing Viterra to export wheat from its port facilities in that country.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on Tuesday granted ABB the approval it needs for Wheat Exports Australia (WEA) to approve the company’s wheat export license.

ABB, along with wheat exporters CBH Group and GrainCorp, were ordered by ACCC to rework and resubmit their proposals to allow competing grain exporters access to the companies’ port facilities.

ABB, which last week officially completed its merger into Viterra, Canada’s largest grain company, operates port terminal facilities through its AusBulk Ltd. subsidiary.

According to the Reuters news service last week, ACCC last month had ruled that the companies’ previously-submitted plans failed to ensure a competitive grain export industry.

Parties must hold accreditation in order to export wheat in bulk from Australia, Viterra said in a release Tuesday. To maintain their accreditation, exporters such as ABB that control port facilities must also have in place, from Oct. 1 this year, an ACCC-approved access undertaking that covers the services they provide at port terminal facilities.

The undertaking process, Viterra said, is aimed at ensuring open access to grain handling and export infrastructure. The accreditation covers wheat exports only and was established as a result of last year’s deregulation of the Australian wheat market, in which the single export desk was replaced by licensing of eligible exporters.

“The principles of transparency, access and accountability are the pillars upon which Viterra’s operating model has been built,” Viterra CEO Mayo Schmidt said in the Regina company’s release Tuesday. “They provide a foundation that encourages competition and supports economic prosperity for all industry participants.

“We look forward to participating in the wheat export program in Australia,” he added. “It is an essential part of Viterra’s overall strategy to bring food ingredients from areas of surplus to world locations where populations and food requirements are rising steadily.”

The approvals are timely, as Australia’s farmers are reported to be harvesting a wheat crop of over 22 million tonnes — a level not seen since 2005-06, Reuters noted last week.

“We have a large harvest ahead of us and we look forward to working with all supply chain participants to handle the anticipated crop,” Viterra chief operating officer Fran Malecha said in a separate ABB release Tuesday.

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