Industry continues lobbying for barley cash

Industry continues to lobby for barley cash after budget snub

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The Australian barley industry believes government funding will help unlock market opportunities.

The Australian barley industry believes government funding will help unlock market opportunities.

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UPDATED: The barley industry is still lobbying for a $20 million asssistance package in spite of receiving no direct budget funding.

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THE GRAINS industry continues to hope government money will be found for an assistance package for the barley sector, decimated by 80.5 per cent tariffs imposed by China in retaliation for alleged dumping.

There was no direct mention in last night's budget of the $20 million the grains industry was hoping for, but they are currently going through the budget to check if there are any further avenues to explore to gain the funding.

In particular they are looking at money dedicated for export improvements, although at an initial glance this was geared more towards IT improvements than bolstering market access.

The incentive to push for money for an industry recovery plan is clear.

Leaders within the grains lobby estimate the losses from the Chinese tariffs will tally a whopping $2.5 billion over the next five years.

To combat the effective loss of the Chinese market, which has bought the majority of Australia's export barley over the past five years and averaged around 60-70pc of all sales, the industry is asking for the money to develop an industry recovery package.

Brett Hosking, GrainGrowers chairman, said his organisation, together with Grain Producers Australia (GPA) and Grain Trade Australia (GTA) had been lobbying for the fund.

"This situation facing growers is not of their making and they need support," Mr Hosking said.

He said the recovery fund would go towards three priority areas.

"We want to help develop new international markets, we want to look at opportunities domestically and we want to maintain relationships with China so we are ready to go when that market does reopen," Mr Hosking said.

"This is something that is really important to maintaining a very lucrative industry for Australia.

He said the investment would not be significant compared to the gains it could have.

"We're losing $2.5 billion, we don't think asking for $20 million to help mitigate those losses is too much to ask."

"We believe that we as an industry have been very resilient, we've dealt with things such as drought, flood and fire and continue to contribute to the national economy but recent events have shown industry alone cannot maintain these market access links."

"This is a national interest issue, grains are a critical part of rural and regional economies and barley is a very important crop in many parts of the nation's grain belt," Mr Hosking said.

"We're calling on government to show its commitment to accelerate market development and capture opportunities for Australian barley and alternate grains, to diversify, secure new market demand and expand existing markets by establishing this fund."

Mr Hosking said it was exciting to see a range of new opportunities emerge for the barley sector.

"We've seen good interest in our malt barley from places such as India and south-east Asia and we're really hopeful we can open that further.

"Critical to this will be the breaking down of non-tariff barriers to trade and allowing us the chance to get our product into these new markets."

Andrew Weidemann, Grain Producers Australia (GPA) chairman said barley was a critical crop for Australian croppers, especially in low rainfall zones.

"Barley is more reliable and tougher in dry conditions so we really want to protect the markets we have as it is such an important crop."

He said he believed increased affluence through Asia would provide opportunities in the malt sector as beer consumption rises, while he said traditional feed markets would continue and in some cases grow.

However, both Mr Hosking and Mr Weidemann said the barley industry wanted to retain close links with China.

"We probably don't want to have the same amount of market share that China had before the tariffs were announced as it means you are overly exposed to this sort of action, but we recognise that China is the world's largest barley market and a great opportunity, especially for our malt barley producers," Mr Hosking said.

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