When the Cattle Council of Australia recently asked producers across Australia to identify strategic imperatives for the cattle industry, the most common reponses were market access and export trade development.
Against that backdrop, Australia’s peak grassfed producer representative body says it has been ‘extremely encouraged’ by the emphasis on trade and market development that has been shown by the Coalition in its first month of Government.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s relationship-rebuilding visit to Indonesia last week was followed by the release by Jakarta of new import permits for 75,000 head of slaughter cattle.
Federal agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce told Beef Central earlier this week that he now plans to lead a follow-up trade delegation to the key cattle and beef export market in coming months.
In further positive news on the agricultural trade front this week, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has also committed to finalising a free trade agreement with China within one year.
Cattle Council of Australia chief executive officer Jed Matz told Beef Central this week the council had been 'extremely encouraged' by the strong commitment to market development demonstrated in recent weeks by the Prime Minister, Mr Joyce and trade and investment minister Andrew Robb.
“We are also encouraged that the Government is looking to utilise commercial players with skin in the game to help them develop these markets and build relationships with our trading partners,” Mr Matz said.
“Relationship building between commercial entities is an important step in improving market access arrangements.”
In the wake of Mr Abbott’s visit to Indonesia there have calls raised in the metropolitan media for the beef industry to develop a new taskforce to deal with market access.
Earlier this week the Australian Financial Review quoted comments from acting Australian Agriculture Co chief executive officer Craig White and Consolidated Pastoral Company chief executive officer Keith Warren calling for the development of a beef industry taskforce to ensure Australia benefits from the boom in global protein demand.
"We absolutely need a beef industry body to join together with government and help inform the decision-making," Mr Warren told the newspaper.
Mr Matz said the red meat industry already had established market access taskforces in place for specific markets, such as the Indonesian Market Access Taskforce which has representation from MLA, producers, lot feeders, live exporters and processors, and any new access initiatives should work in concert with current industry plans and programs and build on and enhance the work that is already underway.
Most of the representatives on the taskforce all had a commercial interest in Indonesia and as a group had developed a sophisticated strategy which is being implemented by MLA through their staff in Australia and by MLA’s Indonesian regional manager John Ackerman.
Mr Matz said that through MLA, the red meat sector implemented a significant number of programs, taskforces and initiatives, all underpinned by a sizeable co-funded investment of producer and processor levies and involving a very close partnership with Government.
The overall investment in Market Access globally is $4.6m and is centred around four key strategies:
- Defend existing favourable market access conditions in overseas markets;
- Position the Australian red meat and livestock industry for the World Trade Organisation Doha round;
- Position the Australian red meat and livestock industry for FTA negotiations;
- Develop strategies to remove technical access barriers.
Meanwhile the National Farmers Federation has welcome Tony Abbott’s commitment to finalising the China free trade agreement within one year, but has cautioned against signing a deal ‘at any cost’.
“Critically, any free trade agreement with China – like those in negotiations with Japan and Korea – must take a holistic view of Australian agriculture and not leave key agricultural commodities out,” NFF president Duncan Fraser said.
“China is already a major trading partner for Australia – our second biggest agricultural market – and there are major opportunities for our farmers in finalising a deal, provided it provides positive outcomes for our dairy, red meat, pork, rice, grains and sugar industries.
“We have been waiting eight long years for the finalisation of the agreement – and while we can understand the Government’s interest in getting the deal done, it is important that in doing so, we agree on the best possible outcome for Australian farmers.”
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