COMPELLING gains for Australian agricultural exports - including increases exceeding 1000 per cent for table grapes and almonds – have been revealed one year into the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement.
The Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA) formally commenced on January 15 last year.
The historic trade deal delivered tariff cuts for Australian farm exports including beef, dairy, wine, horticulture and grains but disappointed industry on sensitive commodities that face tougher protective measures, such as sugar and rice.
Figures provided to Fairfax Agricultural Media this week - compiled by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - show the JAEPA has delivered big early wins for the nation’s farmers.
According to the DFAT analysis - covering the export period of January to October last year, compared to the same period the year before - fresh or table grape exports increased from $600,000 to $6.5 million (1025pc).
Almond exports to Japan also skyrocketed from $400,000 to $4.1m (1057pc) for the same comparative export period.
Under the JAEPA, tariffs of 17pc on table grape imports will be progressively eliminated, during Australia’s growing season, by April 1, 2024.
The deal has also generated huge returns on Australian beef exports with sales of fresh and chilled product growing from $714.5m to $888.2m (24.3pc increase).
Frozen beef exports to Japan climbed from $578.4m to $664.1m (14.8pc increase) while the beef tongue trade has improved from $29.9m to $52.3m (72.3pc increase).
The tariff on frozen beef exports was initially cut from 38.5pc to 30.5pc 12-months ago, followed by another 2pc cut on April 1.
That tariff is due to decrease gradually each year until April 1, 2031, landing on 19.5pc.
For chilled and fresh Australian beef exports into Japan, the tariff rate dropped from 38.5pc to 32.5pc on the deal’s entry into force in January 2015 followed by another 1pc cut on April 1.
Annual cuts will see that tariff expect to land on 23.5pc by April 1, 2028.
According to the DFAT data, the JAEPA has also seen an 11pc growth in bottled wine exports; growing from $26.5m to $29.4m, while bulk and cask wine exports to Japan increased 378pc (valued at $4.6m).
In other significant gains, asparagus exports from Australia to Japan grew 41pc - expanding in value from $10m to $14.1m - after a 3pc tariff was eliminated immediately.
A 12pc tariff on rolled grains of oats that’s now at 9pc and due to be fully eliminated by 2021 saw an export increase of almost 62pc from January to October last year as sales escalated from $5.6m to $9m.
Fresh Valencia orange export grew from $2.1m ahead of the JAEPA coming into force to $3.7m in the period of DFAT’s analysis - a 77.2pc expansion.
Federal Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb has been instrumental in sealing trade agreements with other key agricultural trading partners and welcomed the early growth figures, seen under the JAEPA.
“The conclusion of our landmark free trade agreements with Korea, Japan and China is generating great enthusiasm and new levels of confidence among our exporters,” he said.
“Latest data shows Australian businesses have been quick to capitalise on the agreements with Japan and Korea, and the historic FTA with China - which entered into force late last year – is expected to yield similar results.
“What these figures show is that not only has tariff relief made our traditional exports stronger, it’s created opportunities in the past 12 months in emerging areas where we were previously not competitive and had no market share.”
Mr Robb said outcomes under the new trade agreements further underlined the importance of bilateral trade deals in improving Australia’s competitive position in major North Asian markets.
“I encourage all businesses to take full advantage of the opportunities the FTAs are creating,” he said.
Australian Table Grape Association chief executive Jeff Scott said the advent of the JAEPA had enhanced his industry’s ability to market and trade product into Japan.
Mr Scott said in 2014, the first year of market access, 16 refrigerated sea containers were exported to Japan weighing about 17,000 tonnes each.
He said last year they exported 165 containers (2.8mt) to the Japanese market and anticipated about 400 containers (6.8mt) would be exported at least this year.
“A lot of that increase is on the back of the JAEPA,” he said.
“Japan have openly said they’re seeking high quality good Australian grapes – and we have the sweetest grapes in the world - but we can also better compete now against countries like Chile.
“We’re getting closer to a level playing field with this deal coming into existence and over time we’ll be on a level playing field when we eventually end up on zero tariffs.”