National grains representative body, GrainGrowers, has warmly welcomed the significant investment by the Australian Government to tackle key trade and transport infrastructure challenges affecting the grains industry, announced in last night’s Federal Budget.CEO David McKeon said the announcement of $51.3 million over four years to tackle non-tariff measures (NTMs) showed that the Australian Government had paid close attention to the comprehensive report on NTMs affecting the grains industry, released last week.
Mr McKeon said the addition of a further six agricultural trade counsellors would also boost Australia’s presence in important markets and provide an avenue for real action on addressing trade barriers.
“The Australian Government has been very effective in recent years in delivering reduced tariff rates through a variety of free trade agreements. However, the NTM report identifies 54 specific barriers across 15 markets, which are impeding efficient grain trading flows.
“The NTMs include testing and labelling requirements, restrictive import quota restrictions and import licensing permits, and complex sanitary and phytosanitary certification requirements, such as maximum residue limits,” Mr McKeon said.
“GrainGrowers is committed to working with the Government to follow up on the priorities identified in this report to ensure a fair and transparent export relationship with our markets.
“I congratulate Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud for the fast response by the Government on this issue.”
Turning to the investment of an additional $24.5 billion over the next ten years to regional roads, rail and bridges, Mr McKeon said that the devil was in the detail but it was to be hoped the investment would improve supply chain efficiency and reduce freight rates which are a major cost to growers.
“What growers want to see is the end of an ad hoc approach to infrastructure which has plagued rural Australia for years. Rural freight networks are not the nation’s major highways, but an integral system of local roads and regional rail lines across rural Australia. Unfortunately, this is sometimes forgotten in Canberra, so we will be looking at the Budget investments in detail.
“The job of moving a crop of more than 62 million tonnes after harvest efficiently and cost effectively from farms to market is one which needs closer attention by the Australian Government, given that grains export revenue was worth $14.6 billion to the Australian economy in 2016/17,” Mr McKeon said.
“The grains industry must receive priority planning, investment and regulatory improvements to underpin this vital export industry and indeed the Australian economy,” he said.
Other Budget initiatives welcomed by GrainGrowers which would benefit the grains sector include:
Renewal of the current instant asset write off for farm businesses for another 12 months from 30 June 2018.$4.7 million over four years to collect comprehensive data on farm labour needs in Australia. Of disappointment to the industry, was the Federal Government’s silence on regional telecommunications issues with no new funding allocation for mobile black spots.
In addition, the lack of an additional funding allocation for drought risk management was of concern, given the dry conditions in many parts of the grain belt.
“The Government has reduced the money in the farm risk management program, which is disappointing particularly given the dry conditions farmers are facing. GrainGrowers will continue to work with Government to ensure the remainder of the program delivers real benefits to growers,” said Mr McKeon.
“GrainGrowers welcomes the initiatives in last night’s Federal Budget which will go a long way towards achieving an agricultural industry worth $100 billion by 2030, of which grains will be an important part,” Mr McKeon said.
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