7 Feb 2011

Grain growers continue campaign against unfair trading

6:13 am on 7 February 2011

Grain growers will continue their campaign against what they claim to be unfair trading practices, despite failing to persuade the Commerce Commission to hold an investigation.

Federated Farmers Grains Council complained to the commission last year, asking it to look into why mills were paying New Zealand growers about $100 per tonne less than what they were paying for wheat imported from Australia.

The complaint specifically mentions Viterra, a Canadian co-operative which now owns the former Australian Barley Board, which is a grain exporter. Viterra also owns a number of New Zealand mills that process domestic and imported grain.

The commission has told Federated Farmers that in its view, with the existing competition, Viterra is unlikely to possess the market power needed to breach the Commerce Act.

Grains Council president Ian Morten says the response is disappointing and growers still don't think they're getting a fair deal.

He says the commission was requiring a higher degree of proof than farmers are able to provide.

Farmers keep watch on rural services bid

The federation says farmers will also be keeping watch on another development which has the potential to reduce competition in the rural services sector.

A second Canadian company, Agrium, is reported to be behind a bid to take full control of New Zealand's biggest rural services company, PGG Wrightson.

The bid is understood to be from the Australian company Landmark, a subsidiary of Agrium. It's competing with an offer from PGGW's largest shareholder, Agria of China, which is seeking 50% control.

Agrium already owns a half of another New Zealand rural services firm, RD1, with Fonterra. It also owns AWB, the Australian wheat marketer.

Federation economics and commerce spokesperson Philip York says the Commerce Commission may need to vet Agrium's bid for PGG Wrightson if it goes ahead.