PULSE exporters are now dealing with the tangible results of the hastily enforced Indian chickpea tariff.
Chairman of Pulse Australia Ron Storey said the tariff had been in place for around six weeks now, the same time as it takes for consignments of grain to travel by sea from Australia to India.
He said pulse exporter members of Pulse Australia had been dealing with the situation, which saw the Indian Government make a snap decision to impose a 30 per cent import tariff on chickpeas and lentils effective immediately just prior to Christmas, in different ways.
“The exporters knew produce on the water would be impacted and they have reacted in different ways,” Mr Storey said.
Ultimately, it is the importer, or Indian buyer, responsible for paying the tariff but in most instances, the introduction of the tariff has meant the renegotiation of deals with Indian customers.
Mr Storey said after ringing around and negotiating with customers, some exporters had diverted cargo to other destinations.
“Some have taken a hit upfront and resold the product, with Pakistan and Bangladesh popular destinations.”
He said on average, the trade was estimating the cost of diverting a cargo at $100-150 a tonne, or around 20-25pc of the price of the chickpeas.
This is still less than the 30pc tariff, although some who have sold to India will hope to get the buyer to absorb part of the cost of the tariff.
Mr Storey said for those who had continued as planned and fulfilled their Indian contracts it had been easier for longer term players.
“The ones with long term arrangements and relationships with their buyers have definitely had an easier time negotiating than the newer players.”
Lyndon Asser, president of the Australian Grain Exporters Association (AGEA) said members of his organisation were hopeful of sharing some of the additional costs caused by the tariffs.
“For business already being conducted it is common in situations like this for many parties in the supply chain to share in any losses that do occur, in the hope that all the businesses involved cope with the situation and customer relationships are maintained,” he said.
However, he said there was no doubt the tariff had wreaked havoc among grain exporters, saying it was an example of how business risk can emerge in an unexpected manner.
“The sudden tariff increase occurred affected everyone in the supply chain from Indian importers right back to Australian growers,” Mr Asser said.
He said the flow on effects of the decision would be felt for some time even if the tariff was to be lifted.
“Healthy trade relies on confidence and what we saw in the recent example was quite the opposite, when a sudden policy change meant substantial trade disruption that flowed right back to Australia in the form of an immediate drop in prices,” Mr Asser said.
He said Indian consumers would likely feel the brunt of the decision in the form of more expensive pulse prices.
“Heightened risk in a market makes it less attractive, exporters will either look for other markets or insert a risk premium, it will take time to win back confidence.”
In positive news, Mr Storey said his information was that there were no large volumes of stocks sitting in limbo at Indian docks.
He said the industry was now trying to make sense of talks between Australian agriculture minister David Littleproud and the Indian Government.
It was reported that the Indian Government will consider giving Australia earlier warning of its intentions regarding implementing tariffs.
Mr Storey said rather than this ambiguous offer, Australian pulse exporters would prefer tariffs to be implemented in stages.
“It would have been much easier to manage if the tariff had been brought in at a rate of 10pc a month over three months rather than 30pc overnight.”