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Boom in fruit and vegetable exports into Asia

Boom in fruit and vegetable exports into Asia article image

Australian fruit and vegetable growers can expect some healthy returns following the signing of free trade agreements with our three largest Asian trading partners.

Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce who returned to Australia last week after visiting China, Korea and Japan said growers could look forward to new opportunities in these key markets.

And Mr Joyce says agricultural exports into Asia will provide additional revenue to balance the nation’s “books” and to help deal with the downturn in coal and iron ore mining exports 

Agricultural exports increased by 9 percent in 2013-14 and a further 7 percent in 2014-15, Mr Joyce said.

“And this year’s first quarter we’ve seen a 12 percent increase, compared to the first quarter last year.”

The three big markets of North Asia together account for about US$220 billion worth of agricultural, food and fishery imports from the world each year. China, now the world’s second largest agricultural importer, imports almost US$120 billion worth of this.

“We should also acknowledge the continuing importance of the agricultural markets of Japan, importing US$70 billion each year, and Korea with annual imports worth US$30 billion,” Mr Joyce said.

Tariff cut 

He said grape exports to China had increased over 1600pc for the year and “off the radar” products, like Brussels sprouts – which he was “never keen on them to be honest” – had undergone a 13,800pc increase in one year, to Korea.

Assistant Trade and Investment Minister Richard Colbeck said Australian exports of brussels sprouts to South Korea is one of many “good news” stories for local growers.

The tariff was reduced from 27pc to 19.2pc under the new FTA and further cuts will eliminate it completely by 2020.

Senator Colbeck said under KAFTA, exports of brussels sprouts had increased to more than 181 tonnes between December 2014 and August this year – up from less than 3/t in the same period the year before, making Korea the nation’s largest export market 

Astronomical increases

Mr Joyce also reported “astronomical” export increases of about 3000pc in chickpeas to Korea and 13,800pc increase in poultry sales to Japan along with a 777pc increase for tomatoes and 256pc increase in almond sales into the same market – all in the past year.

During the 5-day Asian trip Mr Joyce was accompanied by leading Australian agricultural industry representatives, including representatives from the horticulture, sugar, dairy, grains, meat and forestry sectors.

“Now that we have these trade agreements in place, it is important that we keep the momentum going – negotiating improved technical market access and promoting stronger commercial relationships between importers and exporters,” he said.

“In China I held high-level talks with senior Chinese Ministers to advance agricultural co-operation and market access between our two nations and I also met with the Minister for Water Resources to discuss how both Australia and China manage this precious resource.

More work underway

“In Korea and Japan I was able to discuss the progress being made on our respective technical market access priorities with my counterpart Ministers for Agriculture. A major focus in Korea and Japan was on networking so that our respective industries could meet and look for opportunities to build commercially viable trade together.”

Minister Joyce said there was more work underway at the Australian Government level to help exporters and importers make the most of the trade deals.

“With the demand for agricultural products in Asia forecast to double by 2050, there is plenty of opportunity to further build agricultural trade right across the Asia-Pacific region for the benefit of farmers, food and fibre processors and consumers alike.”

Export sales figures for Australian agriculture would not grow exponentially forever, he said, but “it’s certainly growing at a rate of knots”.

This is because people in Asia now have greater expendable income as well as higher dietary and fibre requirements.

“They want to eat better food and wear better clothes and they want to it to be delivered reliably,” Mr Joyce said.

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