The results of the first comprehensive survey of non-tariff measures (NTM) which affect the Australian grains industry were released today.
The report sought to identify NTMs in order to communicate their impact to government and other stakeholders for the purpose of improving market access for Australian grains exports and delivering improved farm-gate returns for Australian grain growers.
The project brought together representatives from across industry, led by Grain Trade Australia, GrainGrowers and Grains Industry Market Access Forum (GIMAF).
“Market access is critical for the Australian grains industry,” said GrainGrowers’ Trade and Economics Manager, Luke Mathews.
“More than 75 per cent of national grain, oilseed and pulse production is exported. Export revenue reached record highs in 2016/17 at $14.6 billion. The grains sector contributed 30 per cent of total Australian farm sector exports that year, the largest contribution of any agriculture industry.
“Continued and improved access to overseas markets is essential for the future success of the industry and grower profitability.”
Pat O’Shannassy, Grain Trade Australia CEO, noted that successive Australian governments have been highly effective in liberalising international trade with key grains trading partners.
“Free Trade Agreements and World Trade Organisation reforms have delivered a reduction in tariff rates across a range of export markets, resulting in the expansion of export market opportunities,” said Mr O’Shannassy.
“While tariffs and quotas are still important in some markets, in general they are now less restrictive and harmful for the grains sector than the emerging and growing NTMs that affect trade.”
Mr O’Shannassy said that the report had identified in 54 NTMs across 15 markets, including many of Australia’s most important markets.
“NTMs have been found to affect virtually all grains, although the greatest impact overall are for our larger volume crops, wheat, barley and canola. And while smaller crops may show fewer NTMs, the impact can be significant if the NTM represents a challenging restriction in a key market, placing significant portions of the trade for that commodity at risk.”
Tony Russell, Executive Manager of GIMAF said that for the grains industry, many of the NTMs identified were Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures, in particular Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs).
“The industry is facing challenges due to MRLs in a number of markets which is limiting export opportunities and hurting Australian grain farmers," Mr Russell said.
“Technical Barriers to Trade such as restrictive import permits and certification requirements, are affecting the grains industry, while emerging NTMs include regulation of biotechnology and innovative plant breeding products.”
Mr Russell said that while NTMs include legitimate regulations for the trade in goods, the project found some could be highly trade restrictive and harmful for the industry.
“The impacts of NTMs can be broad and include higher operational and commercial risk for the industry, increased risk of trade bans or restrictions and increased cost of compliance.
“Some 35 per cent of NTMs result in either no, or very restricted market access for Australian grains, while nearly 50 per cent result in either increased compliance costs or compliance risks.”
Louise van Meurs, First Assistant Secretary, Department of Agriculture & Water Resources, said the Government and the grains industry invest significantly in agricultural trade and market access activities.
“Government and industry must work together to address current and future market access challenges. This project has been a welcome joint initiative and will help industry prioritise NTM issues and develop a strategic forward workplan” Ms van Meurs said.
Mr Mathews said the grains industry is looking forward to working with the Australian government on opportunities to practically address many of the NTMs identified.
“Addressing NTMs provides the greatest opportunity for the industry to manage risks, increase trade and increase value for the industry, growers and the economy,” Mr Mathews said.
Mr O’Shannassy commented that the grains industry had recognised the need to increase the resources allocated to trade and market access activities and is working to enhance its trade and market access capability.
The report was made possible with the support of the Grains Research and Development Corporation and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.