FEDERAL Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has warned red meat industry heavyweights the release of a five year strategic plan is just the start but could be trumped by government intervention in areas like trade.
He also warned botching the free trade deal with China would cause a loss of face resulting in “mysterious” business disruptions with the nation’s biggest trading partner.
Mr Joyce spoke today at Parliament House in Canberra where he launched the Red Meat Advisory Council’s 2020 industry strategic plan.
RMAC chair Ross Keane said the nation’s $20 billion red meat industry had the capacity to add a further $7b in value by 2030, if the industry seized its opportunities.
But he warned the industry could also lose $6b in value in that same period if it procrastinated.
The strategic plan was launched almost 14 months to the day that its formal consultation process started.
Stakeholders were told leadership and collaboration was now pivotal to the plan’s success.
The document frames the strategic focus of all aspects of the production, processing and live export sectors of Australia’s beef, sheepmeat and goatmeat supply chain for the future.
Mr Joyce said the plan would put the red meat sector in a strong position to take advantage of extremely favourable international conditions.
He said 2015 was a “great time to be an Australian red meat producer, global demand is booming, prices are high and the dollar is low”.
But in officially launching the plan, he also said its work-load was now in the hands of industry stakeholders.
“The big issue now is it’s back to you,” he said.
Mr Joyce also issued a stern warning about potential government interruption to commercial trade opportunities from the current union campaign against the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) and ongoing push to ban live animal exports.
“If you look at the protein market globally, we’re in a sweet spot, but don’t mistake yourself for one second that things can’t go wrong,” he said.
“If we have bad management at a government level or industry level we can botch this.
“I see decisions go across our desk probably every four or five months but we hold them up.
“However, if we took the wrong fork in the road it would be absolutely devastating for you.”
Mr Joyce said the red meat industry members had to be “on the balls of your toes too” given the current threat to ChAFTA and constant pressures on government to close down the live cattle trade.
He said if we ”botch” the FTA into China, tariff cuts would not be the only opportunity that would be missed.
Mr Joyce said that potential outcome would also create a “snub” and “loss of face to your biggest client and by gosh you will pay”.
“All of sudden it will become incredibly difficult to do business,” he said.
“Things will just start closing – things you thought would happen won’t happen.
“Product will miraculously or mysteriously get locked up at the ports
“Certain biosecurity issues will start raising their heads and on and on it’ll go because we as a nation played silly buggers.”
Mr Joyce said the ChAFTA was “right there now; it’s got to happen by Christmas or it’s all over”.
“It’s your biggest customers in the sale yards and you’re playing dice with it - we’re playing dice with it,” he said.
“It’s mad – absolutely, bonkers mad but it’s happening right now in this building.”