The sheepmeat and wool industries are set to reap the benefits of the newly minted free trade agreement between Australia and India.
Representatives from the sheep and wool sector have welcomed the Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement, signed by federal trade minister Dan Tehan and Indian Minister for Commerce and Industry Priyush Goyal in a virtual ceremony.
Under the interim agreement India will slash tariffs currently imposed on Australian sheepmeat, wool and processed skins and hides, while also binding the tariff on raw skins and hides at zero.
Federal agriculture minister David Littleproud said the deal will open up new and significant market access through the elimination or reduction of tariffs on a range of agricultural exports, including sheepmeat and wool.
"India is a market of over 1.3 billion people with a young population and growing middle class," he said.
"High tariffs on most agriculture products have to-date limited opportunities for Australian farmers to access this dynamic market."
The sheepmeat sector has praised the removal of the current 30pc import tariff levied on Australian sheepmeat on entry into force.
Australia has only exported 111 tonnes of sheepmeat to India over the past 5 years, with premium cuts making up the majority of this trade.
Australian Meat Industry Council board director and director of Fletcher International Exports Roger Fletcher said the focus on premium cuts would undoubtedly continue, with Australian sheepmeat helping meet the ongoing import demand in India for product in the five-star catering and high-end retail segments.
"The agreement fits well with Australia's diversified portfolio of export markets, whereby our industry carefully matches specific cuts with market segments and cuisines," Mr Fletcher said.
"The removal of the tariff will go a long way to providing more certainty for this trade - especially as the majority of other global sheepmeat customers are paying significantly less duty when importing Australian lamb and mutton.
"This deal is a testament to the quality and desirability of Australian sheepmeat across the world, and we are excited to be able to add to the growing list of satisfied global consumers who demand Australian red meat."
Sheep Producers Australia CEO Bonnie Skinner said the agreement would enable the Australian industry to be better placed to supply some of India's demand for high quality sheepmeat.
"The Australian lamb industry has a long history of producing safe, quality lamb for customers around the world," she said.
"Securing this agreement signals a new chapter in our bilateral relations and an opportunity for us to work collaboratively for years to come."
Australian Wool Innovation CEO John Roberts said AWI welcomed the removal of the current 2.5 per cent tariff.
"India is the third largest importer of our wool," he said.
"China is number one and then Italy which is only slightly above India.
"In the six months to January this year India purchased 8,190,780 tonnes of Australian wool.
"That is 4.5pc of the national clip and a 82pc rise on the previous year.
"In recent times we have noticed strong demand for the trade especially in the wools of 17.5 to 21.0 micron wools."
WoolProducers Australia president Ed Storey said the immediate removal of tariffs on wool going into India was an exciting development in trade relations.
The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic saw an initial 30pc drop in the value of India's domestic textile and apparel market, impacting wool imports into the country.
The signing of the interim deal comes after WoolProducers last year provided a confidential submission to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in December seeking a free trade deal that ncorporated duty-free, quota-free access for wool into the Indian market.
"WoolProducers' submission outlined potential benefits to the Australian wool industry under an IA-CECA, including market expansion due to the complementarity between our industry and India's existing textile industry," Mr Storey said.
"In recent times we have seen India become more active in the Australian wool market... we believe that this agreement is therefore ideally timed".
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