THE Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has started talks with the Chinese government to revise the wheat and barley export protocol to the country.
The wheat barley export protocol is reviewed every three years and is due for renewal in 2014, with the existing protocol to remain in place until the end of the year.
While DAFF remained tight-lipped about the detail of discussions between Australia and China, it has revealed part of the negotiation has centred on the identification of significant pests of concern to the Chinese and suitable risk management strategies.
Farm Weekly understands negotiations were initially scheduled in Australia next month but it is now unclear when and where officials will convene.
Despite the confusion, details of the protocol will be concluded by November.
It is understood Chinese officials initiated discussions last year, and first proposed changes earlier this year but negotiations had been delayed.
China implemented the three yearly review process for wheat and barley protocol in 2002 after it joined the World Trade Organisation.
In the intermediate periods following, reviews of the protocol have rolled over with little change, but it is understood the latest review has seen Chinese officials request some alterations.
Farm Weekly understands one change that was requested by Chinese officials was more regular reviews of the protocol.
The department is working closely with the Australian grain export industry as part of the negotiations, including a working group comprising Grain Trade Australia, the Australian Grain Exporters Association and the Grains Industry Market Access Forum.
China is an important export market for Australian wheat and barley, with 1235 kilotons of wheat (including wheat flour) exported to China in 2012-13 to a value of $357 million, and 1712 kilotons of barley exported to China in 2012-13 to a value of $494m.
Australia's grain and oilseed exports to China were worth almost $1.3 billion in 2012-13.
Forum executive manager Tony Russell said the working group, in partnership with DAFF, had been acting to ensure the protocol would be workable.
Mr Russell said DAFF was compiling a response to the first draft of the protocol to be returned to Chinese officials.
"That is about to happen, we are just reviewing aspects of that now," he said.
"That is just in the process of going back to China as we speak.
"The next step is going to be face-to-face negotiation between DAFF and the Chinese General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine."