GIVEN Australians consume around 10 kilograms each per year of imported bacon and ham, European accusations of “de facto quotas” have been described by pork industry leaders as a “a bit rich.”
European parliamentarians visiting Australia this month said Australia had “a tradition of torturing” their pork import applications.
Romanian Sorin Moisa, special rapporteur for free trade agreement negotiations with Australia, said approvals take too long and “too few of our countries’ businesses are able to export pork products to Australia.”
“It’s more than the proportional legitimate standards you would expect to have,” he said.
“Australia is being quite protectionist we feel in this regard.”
Mr Moisa, who will be responsible for writing the report recommending to either approve or kill off the EU-Australia free trade agreement when it eventually reaches the European Parliament, said sending pork to Australia was “very important” to European countries.
Industry leaders, including peak representative group Australian Pork Limited’s boss Andrew Spencer and Meat and Livestock Australia’s global manager for trade and market access Andrew McCallum, said Australia’s biosecurity rules and import risk assessment process was legitimate.
Australia’s pig herd has one of the world’s most healthy and the pork industry made no apologies for wanting to protect that, Mr Spencer said.
The EU, in particular, had a disease called PRRS (Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome) which was a productivity killer, he explained.
The EU is in fact the largest supplier of pork into Australia, with per annum volumes now exceeding 80,000t.
As much as 45 per cent of pork consumed in Australia was imported, with the EU having the most significant share of that, Mr Spencer said.
A whopping 70pc of all ham and bacon sold in Australia is from imported product.
Cheap imported ham and bacon, which does not incur any tariffs, had effectively meant local producers were cut out of those markets and forced to rely on on the fresh pork market to keep their operations afloat, Mr Spencer said.
Australia does not have arrangements for exporting pork to the EU.
Given the subsidies EU farmers enjoy, it is not a market Australia would be able to compete in and so therefore the industry had not pursued those doors as a priority.
But Mr Spencer said if we did, you could bet there would be very strict protocols - beef exports to the EU were proof of that.
“Australia is a free trading nation, in direct contrast to places like the EU,” he said.
“It’s a bit rich for them to accuse us of being difficult traders.”