Australian farmers are applauding the ‘in-principle’ trade deal between Australia and the United Kingdom announced by prime ministers Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson in London overnight.
The proposed deal is the first trade agreement reached by the United Kingdom following its separation from the European Union last year, and will guarantee tariff-free, quota-free access to the UK market for all agricultural products, after phase in periods of up to 15 years.
National Farmers’ Federation, President Fiona Simson said this was a significant leap forward in Australia’s market access and should be a new beginning in a relationship between two countries with a long history.
“Australian and UK farmers share a commitment to meeting the highest standards when it comes to caring for their land and their livestock, and that commitment shows in the quality of our produce.
“UK customers will benefit from the increased availability of high-quality Australian products on their supermarket shelves, alongside their homegrown options.
“We applaud Trade Minister Dan Tehan and our negotiating team on an improved set of market access outcomes. The UK deal will create new opportunities for Australian farmers as we work towards growing industry output to $100 billion by 2030,” Ms Simson said.
Specific outcomes relevant to agriculture include:
- Beef tariffs will be eliminated after 10 years. During the transition period, Australia will have immediate access to a duty-free quota of 35,000 tonnes, rising in equal instalments to 110,000 tonnes in year 10 years.
- Sheep meat tariffs will be eliminated after 10 years. During the transition period, Australia will have immediate access to a duty-free quota of 25,000 tonnes, rising in equal instalments to 75,000 tonnes in year 10 years.
- Sugar tariffs will be eliminated over eight years. During the transition period, Australia will have immediate access to a duty-free quota of 80,000 tonnes, rising by 20,000 tonnes each year.
- Dairy tariffs will be eliminated over five years. During the transition period, Australia will have immediate access to a duty-free quota for cheese of 24,000 tonnes, rising in equal instalments to 48,000 tonnes in year five.
- Australian dairy farmers will also have immediate access to a duty-free quota for non-cheese dairy of 20,000 tonnes.
- Rice will receive immediate duty free access for short and medium grain milled rice when the agreement enters in force.
The NFF has however cautioned the Morrison Government that action on a dedicated Agriculture Visa can no longer be delayed, in the wake of agreed changes for British backpackers visiting Australia.
“We are encouraged by the commitments to development of an agribusiness visa and a specific ag worker visa (Ag Visa),” Ms Simson said.
“We thank Minister Littleproud and Deputy Prime Minister McCormack for their support on the Ag Visa agenda. This is an issue we have championed for several years and while there have been tweaks and amendments to the visa regime, we simply must have a visa that is designed for the agriculture sector rather than the retro fitted schemes that we currently have.
“Given the acute labour shortfalls already wreaking havoc across our industry, any good work achieved by the in-principle agreement on trade will be undone if the Government continues to delay the implementation of a dedicated Ag Visa. Taking away a source of farm labour now could be a devastating blow for Australian farmers, in an environment of existing shortage.
“The Ag Visa must not only make up for the shortfall in backpacker farm labour, but address the growing shortage of farm workers. The NFF will need to see more detail on how an AgVisa and the flagged agribusiness visa will work, and when, because we have heard this one before,” Ms Simson said.