The grains industry is monitoring the political situation in France to see if it will evolve to have a tangible impact on exports to the EU, particularly the lucrative canola trade.
French prime minister Gabriel Attal announced late last week that in response to farmer protests about increasing regulations the French government would take action to disallow fruit and vegetable imports treated with chemical products banned in France, with the first example the insecticide thiacloprid.Andrew Weidemann, Grain Producers Australia research and development spokesperson, said neo-nicotinoid seed treatments, particularly important for canola production in Australia, would be one area to monitor given they had been banned through the EU.
"We have a lot of sympathy for our French counterparts and what they are going through, but this could potentially lead to some big ramifications for us here in Australia," Mr Weidemann said.
"We've already seen European regulations exert an undue influence on Australian production systems, with requirements such as the ISCC (International Sustainability and Carbon Certification), which has meant products that are still registered for use here, such as haloyxfop-based herbicides, cannot be used if the farmer is planning to sell the product to the EU."
"It further strengthen our position that we need to come up with our own locally designed alternative to ISCC that better reflects the production systems here in Australia."
Mr Weidemann said the issue was an interesting one from an Australian perspective.
"On one hand, the current solution of banning imports treated with products banned in the EU is not good for us, but longer term I think the French farming community are raising awareness about the right to farm and allowing farmers across the world to get to work and produce the extra tonnes that is going to be needed to feed the world."
"The EU is being particularly strict in what can and can't be used for crop production, but what they will start to see is that with all the regulations there will be difficulties in producing the food required."
Mr Weidemann said other aspects of the ISCC were already having an impact in Australia.
"Western Australia still has a significant amount of aerial spraying and the ISCC rules regarding aerial spraying near waterways mean that a lot of area will be not be able to be certified, so this latest move is only an extension of what is already happening."
Nick Goddard, executive officer at the Australian Oilseeds Federation, said he could understand the French farmers' position.
"The regulations do not favour cheaper production or by extension cheaper imports if international exports are required to comply," Mr Goddard said.
"One important thing to remember, however, though is that canola is globally priced so if there are other markets then the product could head there."
He said the AOF was watching to see how much room to move the French government had as part of the broader EU.
"What we observe is that decision making regarding chemical regulation is very centralised, so it will be interesting to see what transpires."
"When EU decrees are put out centrally they are binding, so it may take some lobbying before regulations can be altered."
Mr Goddard said there were diverging opinions on agriculture among some of the EU's most powerful nations.
"We have the strong French farm lobby coming up against an equally influential German greens sector."