Focusing on exports to China is ‘worth the risk’

By Jamie Salter

Australian agricultural exporters are focusing on the Chinese market as demand continues, despite tensions linked to tariffs on barley and restrictions on meat exports.

Federal Agriculture Department deputy secretary David Hazlehurst said exporters backed the focus on China.

“The very significant price premiums of China have led to it being worth the risk,” he said.

Mr Hazlehurst said the department's focus was on opening access to markets and providing information.

“What we tend to do is look for opportunities wherever they might lie,” he said.

VFF president David Jochinke said Australia needed to find markets for a good price, as its premium products abide by high environment and employment standards.

“The China market has been extremely important to agriculture and it's a shame we find ourselves in this predicament of restrictions for no logical reason, but it does highlight that our government needs to have diverse trade agreements that we can utilise,” he said.

Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences agricultural trade assistant secretary Jared Greenville said Australian farmers could break into new markets in India and Indonesia.

“We've got a couple of really strong potential growth markets we see on the horizon,” he said.

WoolProducers Australia chief executive Jo Hall has pushed for Australia to pursue a separate deal with India if it remains out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

“While China is our plan A, we need to refine our plan B which will be China plus other countries,” she said.

“This must not be to the detriment of our relationship with China.”

Almost 80 per cent of Australia's wool is exported to China, which is the largest hub for processing wool.

GrainGrowers chairman Brett Hosking said effective communication between governments was vital for a healthy Australia-China relationship.

“Whatever it is, I feel like barley has borne a bit of the brunt of that fractured relationship,” he said.