New protocols for crops to China

29 Apr, 2015 02:00 AM
We will need industry management plans and exporters will need to be vigilant

OFFICIALS are hoping a new wheat and barley protocol with China, dealing with phytosanitary concerns, will help consolidate Australia’s $1.5 billion trade with the Asian powerhouse.

Last week, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Senator Richard Colbeck, announced he had signed the protocol.

Australian officials won crucial concessions from the Chinese Government in relation to numbers of weed seeds.

When negotiations began on the protocol, which comes up for review every three years, China indicated it would push for zero tolerance on a number of extremely common Australian weeds, such as brome grass, milk thistle and wild oats.

“We told them we just could not agree to those terms, it would be impossible to sign a declaration to say there was absolutely zero seeds in a bulk shipment,” said Tony Russell, chief executive of the Grains Industry Market Access Forum (GIMAF).

“Negotiations went on from there, and in the process we’ve won some critical concessions that mean there is a tolerance for some numbers of weed seeds.

“The market to China is going to remain open, and that is a really good outcome for us.”

Senator Colbeck agreed.

“This protocol will be crucial in underpinning and expanding our grain trade opportunities in this market,” he said.

Mr Russell said Australian exporters would have to work hard to ensure they complied with the protocol.

“We will need industry management plans and exporters will need to be vigilant to keep weed seed numbers down.”

Timely agreement

Senator Colbeck said negotiating a deal with China meant Australian grain producers would have a key competitive advantage.

“Global competition to supply the Chinese market is fierce.

“The work done to finalise the China-Australia free trade agreement (ChAFTA) gives us a significant competitive advantage in this market.”

Senator Colbeck also said the agreement was timely in terms of allowing Australian barley exporters capitalise on new concessions won in the ChAFTA, where a three per cent tariff on barley imports from Australia was recently abolished.

“Australian barley exports to China have already seen dramatic growth - barley exports to this market doubled over the last year to over $1 billion and accounted for over 60pc of total Australian barley exports in 2013–14.”

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said the ability to work with the Chinese agricultural sector in regards to biosecurity issues was paying dividends.

“By listening to China, and working closely with our domestic industry, we have arrived at a protocol that meets China’s requirements and will enable exports to continue,” he said.

Mr Russell said Australia’s reputation for grain hygiene had helped win the concessions from Chinese biosecurity officials.

“What we have are phytosanitary statements where it is what it says it is on the label.

“If we say there will be less than so many weed seeds, there will be, it is not just an empty statement and that reputation has helped us.”

Senator Colbeck has also been holding high-level discussions with government counterparts and industry representatives about a range of agricultural export issues.

Sorghum woes continue

Meanwhile, the ongoing issue with sorghum import permits remains a problem for Australian exporters looking to sell sorghum to the Chinese feeder industry.

There is zero tolerance for Johnson grass seeds in sorghum going into the Chinese feed sector. The grass is extensively found in Australian sorghum growing regions.

“Unfortunately, it is not something we can resolve quickly,” Mr Russell said.

“Down the track we would love to negotiate a similar protocol to what is in place for wheat and barley but that won’t happen overnight.”

Gregor Heard

Gregor Heard

is the national grains writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


Jock Munro
29/04/2015 4:06:35 AM

We had a competitive advantage through our single desk Senator Colbeck but your Liberal colleagues (under Brendan Nelson) and Rudd Labor abolished it. The merchants have already trashed our hard won quality reputation and now there is an unreal expectation that they will maintain biosecurity protocols in China.
Mock Junro
29/04/2015 10:41:09 AM

Oh Jock, if you think that the abolition of the single desk has anything to do with this you are so wrong. China has one of the tightest quarantine standards in the world. BUT - they will continually change these to ensure that domestic farmers are getting a decent return. If they let in all this cheap (arguably better qual) grain, domestic prices would fall, so the only way to ensure this, is to put in place extreme quarantine regulations. Most of Aus wheat is bought by COFCO (state owned), so we are selling to a single desk, who dictate the price. Maybe the shoe is on the other foot?
Jock Munro
30/04/2015 4:12:21 AM

Well written Mock - if we are selling to single desks it makes sense that we should use a single desk. The merchants clamour over each other and lower the price of our wheat to get a sale.
30/04/2015 12:00:00 PM

Crop already in Jock ? Must be running big gear You have missed the simple fact that they also clamour over each other to buy our grain
Jock Munro
30/04/2015 5:27:20 PM

Wrong ATB-at pre harvest meetings the mega merchants told us that they had sold no export wheat prior to harvest. Obviously they cannot find any mug growers who will forward sell.
1/05/2015 4:44:38 PM

Jock - You are talking about NSW..? Wheat in NSW has been pretty uncompetitive for a while. I think you will find that WA and SA have been exporting full pace. Are you an advocate for the return of the Single Desk? Or just the benefit to Rankins Springs growers via uncompetitive loading of ships, cross subsidisation (WA) in the pool and the location differential subsidisation by other unfortunate NSW farmers who live closer to port...?
Jock Munro
6/05/2015 3:54:36 AM

Show us where WA cross subsidised NSW under the single desk ATB?
6/05/2015 9:50:58 AM

G'day Jock, is the crop in already ? I obviously don't have the accounts and I can't draw you a picture on this website.. But It would be a similar keystroke (they use computers now) to how Emerald Pools cross subsidised into their cash book... Now what about this location differential subsidisation ? No comment ? All the readers in the Eastern Regions are waiting to hear how this aspect of the pool was beneficial to them
Jock Munro
7/05/2015 3:33:17 AM

I thought as much ATB-no proof. Why did I pay more for freight then growers further East of me that were closer to Port? Your cross subsidisation claims are a furphey.
7/05/2015 8:37:17 AM

^ than
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