Technical barriers to trade, wild dogs and labour shortages take the spotlight in today's update on AgForce's 30 issues in 30 days campaign.
Click on video to learn more MLA managing director Scott Hansen and AgForce cattle board president Howard Smith about technical barriers to trade and how they affect access to key markets for Australia's export beef trade.
Issue 24: Technical Barriers to Trade
AgForce is urging both Federal Labor and the Coalition to commit to working with emerging international export partners to resolve technical barriers to trade constraining the sale of Australian beef and sheepmeat.
The organisation has identified technical trade barriers as one of the top 30 issues affecting the ongoing viability and growth of the Australian agriculture industry as part of the ’30 Issues, 30 Days’ campaign.
Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) research has shown 136 technical market access barriers are costing the grazing sector more than $1.25 billion in lost export capacity.
MLA Managing Director, Scott Hansen, said many of these barriers were in emerging markets and severely limiting the Australian grazing sector’s capacity to fully capture trade market opportunities.
“Something we have seen over the last couple of years has been the growth in the number of destination markets to which Australian beef and Australian sheepmeat is being sent to,” Mr Hansen said.
“We’ve seen a significant increase in emerging markets coming forward, but with that has come a significant number of technical market access barriers to the trade.”
Mr Hansen said many of these constraints were not scientifically based.
“For example one of the areas that is home to many of these technical access barriers is the Middle East and North Africa,” he said.
“One of the most common restrictions on us there are artificial time constraints on the shelf life of Australian products in that market place.
“The United Arab Emirates has an artificial barrier of 40 days shelf life for our product, which is well less than half what science has shown us Australian product can have.”
AgForce Cattle President, Howard Smith, said a collaborative approach that was supported by Government was needed to break down technical barriers and invigorate trade to emerging customers.
“We need to be aware of the problems, try and identify the priorities or the ones we can work on along with MLA, industry and government departments and work together to communicate with countries and reach an outcome that is beneficial to all involved.”
Issue 23: Wild Dogs
Queensland stands to lose its sheep industry and to have a beef sector with drastically reduced production output unless wild dogs can be controlled.
Wild dog populations are increasing in all sheep and cattle production zones across the nation, including those once deemed free of the destructive pest.
AgForce Livestock Policy Director, Michael Allpass, said wild dogs were no longer simply a sheep producer’s issue with cattle and native wildlife now also heavily impacted.
“Traditional merino wool production enterprises within Queensland are exiting the industry for alternative production systems due to increased and unsustainable losses from wild dog attacks,” Mr Allpass said.
“However, wild dogs have also been shown to cost the beef sector at least $41 million annually through calf losses, dog bites, condemned meat and disease.
“Furthermore biodiversity and native species, including the dingo, are under increasing threat from wild dog predation.
“All of this not only directly hurts our primary producers but this also flows on to restricting the social and economic strength of our rural and regional communities.
“A coordinated approach to management that is adequately supported by Government is key to controlling this growing problem”
Specifically AgForce is calling for:
- A cooperative and collaborative approach to wild dog control taking a ‘whole of landscape approach’ with greater landowner participation to remove gaps between individual properties and regional shire areas;
- Consideration of rebates on shire rates to those landowners who demonstrate adequate control methods;
- Support to establish a team of regional compliance officers to support local government and remove the emotional implications when issuing compliance notifications;
- Ensure the retention of Biosecurity Queensland Wild Dog Officers across the State to assist with achieving cooperative collaboration within and adjoining their areas of influence;
- Continuation of wild dog awareness campaigns to ensure the sustainability and future of our agribusinesses and farming communities as well as the health of our natural resources and biodiversity;
- Reduced regulation around accreditation of 1080 to include more authorised officers to control vertebrate pests;
- Improved product registration timeframes through AVPMA relating to new toxins for wild dog control and use thereof;
- A review of the Land Protection (Pest and Stock Route Management)Act 2002 to ensure the level of necessary compliance is maintained, if not increased, to encourage greater participation in control methods.
Traprock district sheep and wool producer and National Farmers’ Federation Vice President, Brent Finlay, said wild dogs were responsible for the worst animal welfare outcomes he had seen throughout his career in the rural sector.
“I’ve been in the bush for 40 years and the worst animal welfare I have ever seen is attacks on livestock from wild dogs,” Mr Finlay said.
“What they do is absolutely horrific.
“Landholders, both public and private, have to work together at a landscape level to control this.”
Issue 22: Labour Shortage
Visa requirements must be reviewed by Federal Government so that the acute shortage of semi-skilled labour suited to the agriculture industry does not continue to constrain primary production and efficiency.
Calling for the review as the twenty-second issue of the ’30 Issues, 30 Days’ campaign, the organisation said it was seeking a full review of labour issues, including a range of long-term measures aimed at encouraging a better understanding of the employment opportunities within the sector and the delivery of improved labour solutions.
AgForce General Manager of Policy, Lauren Hewitt, said these measures included visa, education and economic considerations.
“For example, we are calling for the establishment of a new visa category or concession to the 457 visa category to allow sponsorship of semi-skilled agricultural workers with skill levels less than the current Certificate IV criteria,” Ms Hewitt said.
“We are also seeking a pathway to convert from a 417 Working Holiday visa to an employer sponsored visa for workers who meet the relevant industry experience and skill criteria as certified by the farm employer.
“Then of course there are grass roots initiatives like the embedding of agriculture, food and fibre into the national school curriculum so as to educated students about the employment opportunities available to them as well as tax support measures for primary producers who place staff.
“These are merely a few of the common sense changes which would significantly ease the burden of the current labour shortage.”
Clermont district beef and grain producer, Peter Anderson, employs three to four people within his enterprise and, due to competition from the resources sector, has used backpackers to help solve his labour shortfall. However, current visa regulations also deems employing these overseas workers difficult.
“My operation provides considerable labour input and for the past 10 years we have been using backpackers on working holiday visas,” Mr Anderson said.
“However, what I would like to see is a change to visa arrangements where some of the 417 visa holders who have worked for me in the past can come back and do that again as they already have the skills base.
“At the moment the regulations do not allow for this.
“We have a critical shortage in agriculture for people on the farm doing the day-to-day jobs and there is not a farm in this district which would not employ another one or two people if they could get them.
“Governments are all talking about the food shortage in the future and increasing out agricultural production but that won’t be achievable unless we can get more staff – it’s as simple as that.”
AgForce's 30 issues in 30 days campaign is designed to draw the attention of decision makers to 30 of the most important issues impacting on the rural sector as Australia moves towards a Federal Election. For more information, and to view more videos on key issues, click here
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