Tariff cuts no benefit without more water
THE new Trans Pacific Partnership and the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement could provide Western Downs farmers with a much needed leg-up, but only if the government plays its cards right.
Member for Maranoa and Minister for Agriculture and Water, David Littleproud, announced tariffs on Australian farm produce going into China would be largely eliminated on January 1.
"Key exports including wine, most fruit and vegetables, seafood and some dairy will no longer cop a tariff in China, which means our produce will be more affordable for Chinese consumers," Mr Littleproud said.
Councillor Andrew Smith said the latest tariff cuts were an excellent opportunity for producers.
"I think any opportunity to increase the chance for local growers to sell into international markets is a good thing," Cr Smith said.
"Ag is one of the major pillars of our economy, and the world these days is a much smaller place.
"It is unbelievable the number of producers we have locally who do export overseas.
Mr Littleproud said: "Just some of the benefits are our farmers will sell more dairy into Canada through a new quota, more rice into Japan and no longer face tariffs on sheep meat or pork into Mexico."
With 23 piggeries in the region, these tariff cuts could be a game changer for Wester Downs producers.
Basin Sustainability Alliance chair, Lee McNicholl, agrees the opportunity is there but not with the limited amount of new underground water available to producers.
"There's no more water for increased production. The mining sector has unlimited take of the artesian water in the region, and there's only enough water for farmers to access a further two per cent above existing allocations," Mr McNicholl said.
The agricultural sector currently accesses 40,000 megalitres of GAB water, with an increase water allowance of two percent equating to 840 megalitres.
Mr McNicholl is convinced this won't be enough water to support the increased demands of the international market and could ultimately be setting local producers up for inevitable failure.
"If Australian producers and exporters are going to see the benefits, they first need to understand the vastly different consumer habits of their new market,
"After you've achieved that you're going to need increased access to water to support the growing demands.
"Without access to more water farmers here won't be able to maintain a higher level of production."
Mr Littleproud previously stated the tariff cuts would provide "farmers more options overseas so they can sell where they choose - not just to the supermarkets here in Australia."
"Australia exported more than $12.5 billion of agri- cultural produce to CPTPP countries last financial year, representing almost a quarter of Australia's total ag exports," he said.
Australian Pork Limited trade and workforce manager, Andrew Robertson said it will still be difficult for Australian producers to compete in the US dominated Mexican pork market.
"But with a niche focus Western Downs producers may be able to find new opportunities.
"With a focus on free-range, high-welfare, no anti-biotic use, heritage breeds or unique feeds and flavours, (farmers) should capitalise on their product's unique aspects to capture market share."
Australia's ratification of the CPTPP meant Australian exporters benefited from immediate tariff cuts on entry into force of the CPTPP on December 30 for Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and Singapore, and further tariff cuts into Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and Singapore on January 1.
Japan's second tariff cut will not be taken into effect until April 1.
Australian exporters will benefit from two tariff cuts for Vietnam on January 14 upon the CPTPP entering into force for Vietnam.