Expanding agricultural, fisheries and forestry exports

​​​​​​​​​​Maximise returns to primary producers from selling into export markets

Australia exports around 60 per cent of its farm, fish and forest products. We work with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to achieve the best outcomes for Australian agricultural and food export interests in bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations.

The department also negotiates technical arrangements with trading partners to maintain, improve and restore market access for portfolio industries.

More information is available at Trade and market access​.

Our work under this strategic objective in 2015–16 included implementing a range of Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper initiatives aimed at accessing premium markets. Specific projects included:

  • strengthening cooperation arrangements with state and territory governments to identify synergies between agricultural trade interests
  • analysing free trade agreements to help identify market access opportunities and impediments
  • establishing an additional five agricultural counsellors in Vietnam, Malaysia and the Middle East, and high-level counsellors in Thailand and China
  • implementing the Agricultural Trade and Market Access Cooperation program to help open, improve and maintain access to overseas markets
  • upgrading our Manual of Importing Country Requirements system to improve access, information and support to exporters.

We provided a number of grants for projects to help small exporters improve their access to international markets. Grants supported industries ranging from the tea tree oil industry, promoting the cosmetic and other uses of the oil to the European Union, to the kangaroo meat industry, which is seeking to promote the meat in China.

We worked with portfolio industries and trading partners to secure new and improved market access. This included supporting ministerial and industry visits to trading partners including China, Indonesia, Japan and the Republic of Korea. The inclusion of industry delegations provided valuable opportunities for exporters to make new business contacts.

We continued bilateral work with trading partners, developing a new funding model and guidelines for the longstanding Australia–China Agricultural Cooperation Agreement. The agreement facilitates a range of projects and trade missions to build cooperation across agricultural industries and provides a forum for the exchange of scientific, economic and policy-related information.

We also supported our trade efforts through managing quotas with the European Union, Japan and the United States (see Building successful primary industries) and providing export certification services to help exporters meet importing country requirements (see Managing biosecurity and imported food risk).

We continued to advance Australia’s agricultural trade interests in multilateral forums such as the G20, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, complementing the efforts of DFAT. This included the 10th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference, held in Kenya in December 2015, where members agreed to abolish agricultural export subsidies. This outcome aligns with Australian trade policy and will ensure more certainty in international markets enabling our exporters to compete on a more level
playing field.

Under our WTO obligations, we reported on Australia’s domestic support for agriculture, market access, technical assistance to developing countries, and special agricultural safeguard notifications. We also notified the WTO of reforms to country-of-origin labelling requirements and changes to Australia‘s sanitary and phytosanitary measures including the implementation of the Biosecurity Act 2015.

In the forestry sector, we took part in a number of high-level initiatives and forums that deal with issues related to illegal logging, forest certification, sustainable forest management and market access. This included local regional initiatives such as the Asia–Pacific Forestry Skills and Capacity Building Program and the Illegal Logging: Regional Capacity Building Partnership.

To ensure farmers and exporters are better placed to respond to change, take up innovation and technology, and benefit from market access, we are improving agricultural export legislation. Improvements have been informed by consultation with trading partners, industry representatives, exporters and producers.

As a result of the consultation the government has agreed to changes to make the rules for exporting easier to understand and apply. This work ties in with increased investment in reducing technical barriers to trade through the white paper. We have also begun a market research project to better inform our performance on engaging stakeholders and exporters on trade access issues.

Annual performance statement

TABLE 3 Annual performance statement—Strategic objective 3: Expanding agricultural, fisheries and forestry exports, 2015–16

Performance measure

Source

Result against performance measure

The trend in value of agricultural exports increases in real terms over time

Corporate Plan 2015–16
Portfolio Budget Statements 2015–16, p.39

In 2015–16, rural exports were valued at $49.4 billion, significantly higher than the 10-year average of $41.4 billion. Agricultural exports were $44.8 billion. a

Access to overseas markets accepting Australian agricultural, fisheries and forestry exports is maintained or improved

Corporate Plan 2015–16

In 2015–16, there was an overall improvement in market access for portfolio industries. This includes 16 measures that resulted in improved or maintained market access and 15 measures that resulted in access gained or restored.

Increased agricultural, fisheries and forestry exports to countries with which Australia has recently signed a free trade agreement.

Corporate Plan 2015–16

In 2015–16, Australian agricultural, fisheries and forestry exports under recently signed agreements were:
China—$8.0 billion, well above the 10-year average of $5.6 billion
Japan—$3.9 billion, below the 10-year average of $4.6 billion
Republic of Korea—$3.1 billion, well above the 10-year average of $2.4 billion.

International standards to support Australian agricultural, fisheries and forestry exports are maintained or improved

Corporate Plan 2015–16

The department plays a significant role in international standards setting bodies.
This includes the International Plant Protection Convention, World Organisation for Animal Health and Codex Alimentarius Commission.

Positive industry feedback on agreed market access priorities and the resolution of market access problems

Corporate Plan 2015–16

The department expanded its network of agriculture counsellors to help industries address market access issues.
One of the network’s main roles is assisting with access priorities and facilitating the release of detained consignments.
Industry feedback through formal and informal mechanisms has been positive.

Australia’s international agricultural relationships are upheld

Corporate Plan 2015–16

Australia participated in a significant number of relevant meetings held in Australia. This included bilateral meetings, audits and commodity specific meetings.
Our network of overseas agriculture counsellors also contributes to this outcome.

100% of membership funds to international organisations are paid in accordance with Australia’s international obligations and statutory requirements

Corporate Plan 2015–16

The department continued to provide Australia’s membership contribution to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, which was more than $13 million in 2015–16.

The department actively participates in between 15 and 20 bilateral and multilateral negotiations, meetings and high level visits

Corporate Plan 2015–16

Australia participated in a significant number of relevant meetings held in Australia. This included bilateral meetings, audits and commodity specific meetings.
Our network of overseas agriculture counsellors also contributes to this outcome.

100% of all portfolio statutory reporting obligations under international agreements are met

Corporate Plan 2015–16

Australia met all of its statutory reporting obligations to the International Plant Protection Convention, World Organisation for Animal Health and Codex Alimentarius Commission.

a Ten-year average is based on ABARES and Australian Bureau of Statistics data for the period 2005–06 to 2014–15 and is reported in real (2015–16 constant dollar) terms. The value of 2015–16 exports is based on preliminary estimates only. Matters outside the department’s control, which affect production and price movements (including exchange rates), also influence export volumes and value.

Analysis of performance against the strategic objective

Australian primary producers are seeking opportunities to compete in international markets. The government facilitates trade and market access arrangements that contribute to export performance.

Australia’s export of rural resources remains positive, with significant and sustained increases in the value of exports in 2015–16. The long-term trends in total exports, and in exports to North Asia, continue to increase. But there will be volatility in some markets and significant increases can occur in any one year. For example, there has been significant downward pressure in dairy product export prices.

Increasing the value of agriculture, fisheries and forestry exports

Growth in the value of exports over the recent years has been driven by a range of factors that include changing diets in Asia’s middle class, the depreciation of the Australian dollar, improved market access following the negotiation of several free trade agreements, and the success and drive of Australia’s exporters.

The value of rural exports in 2015–16 was an estimated $49.4 billion. This is significantly higher than the 10-year long-term average of $41.4 billion (Figure 9). This comprised agriculture exports of $44.8 billion, fisheries exports of $1.5 billion and forestry exports of $3.1 billion.

This is a line graph comparing the value of rural exports in real terms, which is defined in 2015–16 constant dollars, against the 10-year average of 41.4 billion dollars between 2005–2006 and 2015–16.  In 2005–2006 the value of rural exports in real terms was 39.9 billion dollars.  In 2006–2007 the value of rural exports in real terms was 38.8 billion dollars.  In 2007–2008 the value of rural exports in real terms was 37.1 billion dollars.  In 2008–2009 the value of rural exports in real terms was 40.9 billion dollars.  In 2009–2010 the value of rural exports in real terms was 35.8 billion dollars.  In 2010–11 the value of rural exports in real terms was 39.5 billion dollars.  In 2011–12 the value of rural exports in real terms was 43.2 billion dollars.  In 2012–13 the value of rural exports in real terms was 43.7 billion dollars.  In 2013–14 the value of rural exports in real terms was 46.4 billion dollars.  In 2014–15 the value of rural exports in real terms was 48.8 billion dollars.  In 2015–16 the value of rural exports in real terms was estimated to be 49.4 billion dollars. 

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016, International trade, Australia, cat.No. 5465.0. Ten-year average is based on ABARES and Australian Bureau of Statistics data for the period 2005–06 to 2014–15. The value of 2015–16 exports is based on preliminary estimates only.

Since the mid-2000s there has been growth in both the value of cropping and livestock exports. Cropping exports, in both volume and value terms, fluctuate with seasonal conditions that affect production. Wheat remains the largest crop exported in value terms. Canola and horticultural exports have grown in importance over the past 10 years. Exports of tree nuts and fruit have grown strongly in recent years.

While only a relatively small crop in Australia, chickpea exports are estimated to have more than doubled in value terms in 2015–16. The failure of monsoon rains in India reduced chickpea production and increased India’s demand for imports. Australian producers responded to high world prices and the depreciation of the Australian dollar by doubling the area planted to chickpeas. This resulted in record production, much of which was exported.

Growth in livestock exports has been dominated by continued growth in red meat and live animal exports. Beef and veal exports are estimated to have increased by more than 50 per cent in value terms over the past 10 years. In recent years there has also been growth in the value of live cattle exports. We support the livestock trade through the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS), which has facilitated the export of more than 12 million animals to 20 countries since 2011.

An example of how income growth and increased trade openness in the Asian region have contributed significantly to growth in exports is Australia’s cherry industry. In January 2015, market access was improved for cherries to the Republic of Korea following a reduction in inspection rates. In December 2015, market access to Thailand for a range of fruits, including cherries, improved.

While a relatively small industry, cherry exports increased to $48 million in 2014–15, up from $13 million in 2010–11. This has been of particular benefit in Tasmania which enjoys fruit-fly free status and favourable air freight charges to Asian markets. The growth in the markets for Tasmania and the rest of Australia is illustrated in Figure 10.

This is a column graph showing the value of cherry exports to Asian markets from Tasmania and the rest of Australia in 2014–15.  The value of cherry exports to Hong Kong was 6.6 million dollars for Tasmania, and 13 million dollars for the rest of Australia.  The value of cherry exports to China was 5.9 million dollars for Tasmania, and 0.5 million dollars for the rest of Australia.  The value of cherry exports to Taiwan was 5 million dollars for Tasmania, and zero for the rest of Australia.  The value of cherry exports to the Republic of Korea was 3.5 million dollars for Tasmania, and zero for the rest of Australia.  The value of cherry exports to Singapore was 1.9 million dollars for Tasmania, and 2.4 million dollars for the rest of Australia.  The value of cherry exports to Thailand was 1.1 million dollars for Tasmania, and 0.1 million dollars for the rest of Australia.  The value of cherry exports to Malaysia was 1.1 million dollars for Tasmania, and 1 million dollars for the rest of Australia.  The value of cherry exports to Indonesia was 0.8 million dollars for Tasmania, and 0.3 million dollars for the rest of Australia.  The value of cherry exports to other undefined Asian markets was 1.1 million dollars for Tasmania, and 3.4 million dollars for the rest of Australia. 

Source: ABS data published in ABARES Agricultural Commodities, June quarter, 2016, p120

China, Japan and the Republic of Korea

In 2015–16, Australia’s largest agriculture export market in value terms was China. The second largest market was the United States, followed by Japan and the Republic of Korea. An important contributing factor to the rise in the value of Australia’s agricultural exports was increased trade with several major partners, including those with whom Australia recently signed trade agreements.

The China–Australia Free Trade Agreement, which came into force in December 2015, eliminated tariffs on barley and sorghum and will lead to a rapid tariff reduction for other exports including dairy, meat, seafood and a variety of horticulture commodities, most within four to 11 years.

In 2015–16, ABARES estimates Australian agricultural exports to China were $8.0 billion (Figure 11).

Japan is Australia’s third-largest agricultural, forestry and fisheries market. It is Australia’s largest market for cheese and offal, the second largest market for beef, and an important destination for sugar, seafood and horticulture.

The Japan–Australia Economic Partnership Agreement came into force in January 2015. It is expected to deliver significant benefits and opportunities to Australian farmers and agricultural producers in a highly valuable but protected market. ABARES estimates Australian agricultural exports to Japan were $3.9 billion in 2015–16 (Figure 11). Despite a decline in the value of exports to Japan in real terms over the past 10 years, the value of exports in the past year or two has been supported by the depreciation of the Australian dollar against the Japanese yen.

When the Korea–Australia Free Trade Agreement came into force in December 2014, it was estimated that half of Australia’s exports to that market gained duty-free access. Once the agreement is implemented fully, 98 per cent of Australia’s agricultural, fisheries and forestry exports to the Republic of Korea will face zero tariffs.

ABARES reports that in 2015–16 Australian agricultural exports to the Republic of Korea were $3.1 billion (Figure 11). Major exports include beef and veal, sugar and wheat. This was supported by the depreciation of the Australian dollar against the Korean won.

​​This is a line graph, showing the value of rural exports to China, Japan and the Republic of Korea in real terms, defined in 2015–16 constant dollars, compared to the 10-year average for each market from 2005–2006 to 2015–16.  For exports to China, the 10-year average was 5.6 billion dollars.  In 2005–2006 the value of exports to China in real terms was 2.9 billion dollars.  In 2006–2007 the value of exports to China in real terms was 3.1 billion dollars.  In 2007–2008 the value of exports to China in real terms was 3 billion dollars.  In 2008–2009 the value of exports to China in real terms was 3 billion dollars.  In 2009–2010 the value of exports to China in real terms was 3.5 billion dollars.  In 2010–11 the value of exports to China in real terms was 4.5 billion dollars.  In 2011–12 the value of exports to China in real terms was 6.5 billion dollars.  In 2012–13 the value of exports to China in real terms was 7.3 billion dollars.  In 2013–14 the value of exports to China in real terms was 9 billion dollars.  In 2014–15 the value of exports to China in real terms was 8.6 billion dollars.  In 2015–16 the value of exports to China in real terms was an estimated 8 billion dollars.  For exports to Japan, the 10-year average was 4.6 billion dollars.  In 2005–2006 the value of exports to Japan in real terms was 5.7 billion dollars.  In 2006–2007 the value of exports to Japan in real terms was 5.4 billion dollars.  In 2007–2008 the value of exports to Japan in real terms was 4.8 billion dollars.  In 2008–2009 the value of exports to Japan in real terms was 5.5 billion dollars.  In 2009–2010 the value of exports to Japan in real terms was 4.3 billion dollars.  In 2010–11 the value of exports to Japan in real terms was 4.3 billion dollars.  In 2011–12 the value of exports to Japan in real terms was 4.4 billion dollars.  In 2012–13 the value of exports to Japan in real terms was 4.1 billion dollars.  In 2013–14 the value of exports to Japan in real terms was 3.6 billion dollars.  In 2014–15 the value of exports to Japan in real terms was 4 billion dollars.  In 2015–16 the value of exports to Japan in real terms was an estimated 3.9 billion dollars.  For exports to the Republic of Korea, the 10-year average was 2.4 billion dollars  In 2005–2006 the value of exports to Korea in real terms was 2.3 billion dollars.  In 2006–2007 the value of exports to Korea in real terms was 2.5 billion dollars.  In 2007–2008 the value of exports to Korea in real terms was 2 billion dollars.  In 2008–2009 the value of exports to Korea in real terms was 2.1 billion dollars.  In 2009–2010 the value of exports to Korea in real terms was 2.3 billion dollars.  In 2010–11 the value of exports to Korea in real terms was 2.3 billion dollars.  In 2011–12 the value of exports to Korea in real terms was 2.6 billion dollars.  In 2012–13 the value of exports to Korea in real terms was 2.4 billion dollars.  In 2013–14 the value of exports to Korea in real terms was 2.4 billion dollars.  In 2014–15 the value of exports to Korea in real terms was 2.8 billion dollars.  In 2015–16 the value of exports to Korea in real terms was an estimated 3.1 billion dollars. 

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016, International trade, Australia, cat.No. 5465.0. Ten-year average is based on ABARES and Australian Bureau of Statistics data for the period 2005–06 to 2014–15. The value of 2015–16 exports is based on preliminary estimates only.

Australia also concluded a trade agreement with 11 other Asia–Pacific nations (the Trans-Pacific Partnership). Once ratified, the agreement is expected to eliminate tariffs on more than $4.3 billion of dutiable exports in the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors.

Building market access

We play a key role in technical market access, negotiating with trading partners on arrangements to open, maintain and improve access for commodities, and providing expert advice in negotiations to restore markets when trade is disrupted. In 2015–16, we delivered more than 31 reported market access achievements for our portfolio industries. These included access for:

  • nectarines to China
  • eggs or egg products to Japan and Taiwan
  • molluscan shellfish to Japan
  • timber and wood-based products to Indonesia and Malaysia
  • meat and processed pork products to Vanuatu
  • frozen pork and pork meat products to Singapore
  • offal to Morocco.

We facilitate bilateral meetings and workshops to discuss trade-related matters and to strengthen relationships with trading partners. We also coordinate study tours, visits and audits to progress new market access or maintain existing trade. During the year, we hosted three audits from China, and one each from the European Union, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan. We also supported trade delegation visits for commodities including beef, dairy, kangaroo meat, nectarines and donkey meat and skins.

Our overseas network is an important part of our market access work. In 2015–16, we expanded the network to 16 countries with the appointment of five new agricultural counsellors to China, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Vietnam. The network works to remove distortions to international trade, progress and resolve market access issues for portfolio industries, and facilitate targeted technical assistance and agricultural cooperation in support of portfolio interests.

We encourage information-sharing and feedback from clients, stakeholders and the community as this
helps us to develop and manage our policies, program and regulations, and to provide our services.

Snapshot: Nectarines to China

In May 2016, Australian nectarine growers gained access to export their fruit to China, following the agreement of new import protocols.

The agreement reflected a new, collaborative approach to horticulture market access between the department, the Australian summerfruit industry and officials in nectarine producing states such as South Australia and Victoria.

Access to this market has delivered practical and commercially viable export opportunities to Australian nectarine producers. The protocol is more flexible, incorporating short-duration fruit fly treatments for fruit shipped by air freight, giving exporters a commercial advantage to get to the market as quickly as possible after harvest.

The agreement also includes formal recognition of Australia’s fruit fly pest-free areas for the first time in any horticulture protocol agreed with China.

China is now Australia’s largest agricultural export market, with total exports of agricultural commodities in 2015–16 worth approximately $8 billion.

The implementation of the China–Australia Free Trade Agreement means that from 1 January 2017, Australian nectarines will face a tariff of only 4 per cent in China, down from 10 per cent before the agreement took effect. Further tariff reductions will follow in 2018, with all tariffs on Australian nectarines to be eliminated in 2019.

Australia already exports a range of fresh fruits to China, including citrus, cherries, mangoes and table grapes. The agreement on nectarines opens a key market for another Australian horticulture commodity to one of the biggest consumer markets in the world.

In 2015–16, Chinese producers also gained access to the Australian market for their nectarines and table grapes.

Photo of nectarines 

International engagement

Members of the World Trade Organization are bound by the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement. The agreement recognises the need for WTO members to protect themselves from the risks posed by the entry of pests and diseases, but also seeks to minimise any negative effects of these measures on trade.

The agreement encourages WTO members to harmonise their measures by basing measures on agreed international standards through the:

In the WTO, we work to ensure portfolio positions are reflected in international standards. As international trade tariffs are reduced, non-tariff measures such as sanitary and phytosanitary measures and technical regulations can be used to impede trade, limiting opportunities for export. During the year, we worked on developing guidelines for transparency and monitoring ongoing work on private standards in the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary Committee.

In February 2016, we hosted the 22nd session of the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems, which put forward new draft guidelines on exchanging information between countries about imports and exports, food safety emergencies, and rejected food consignments.

Influencing international standards is a long-term endeavour, and our history of active participation has earned Australia a leadership role in developing international agricultural and food standards. The Australian Chief Veterinary Officer is an elected member of the OIE Council and currently holds the position of Vice-President. Senior departmental officials also hold the positions of Chair of the IPPC Commission on Phytosanitary Measures, Chair of the IPPC Standards Committee and Chair of the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems.

Our involvement in a series of International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures adopted on pest-free areas has provided a sound platform for Australia to successfully negotiate recognition of pest-free areas with trading partners. Recognition of these areas—such as the Riverina and Sunraysia districts—enables improved market access for Australian horticultural commodities. For example, fresh produce from these districts does not require cold treatment to destroy fruit flies prior to export, saving treatment costs and enabling produce to be sent to market sooner, so that it arrives fresher and in better condition.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Australia is obliged to cooperate with other States on the conservation of marine living resources in the high seas and in developing appropriate management measures where nations share resources. Australia is a member of five regional fisheries management organisations as well as several other multilateral and regional forums that consider fisheries issues.

These organisations play a pivotal role in facilitating international and regional cooperation in the management of fish stocks that Australia shares with other nations. In 2015–16, Australia was active in these organisations with a view to developing robust, science-based measures for the long-term management of fish stocks and their associated ecosystems.

In the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna, Australia worked with members to ensure continuation of the aerial stock survey and provided continued funding for work on genetagging, which will replace the survey in coming years. In the case of tuna and billfish in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, Australia has continued work to lead the introduction of a harvest strategy approach to the management of fish stocks and successfully led the adoption of a harvest strategy work plan in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

We were active during the year in supporting, chairing and developing the founding conservation and management measures for the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement. In the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation, Australia has continued its good track record of leading new conservation and management measures to set this organisation on a sustainable path. Australia was successful in seeking the adoption of two new measures in 2016.

The first will ensure new and exploratory fisheries are developed in a precautionary, sustainable way. The second addresses vessels without nationality, in another positive step in the global effort to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. A similar measure proposed by Australia was adopted by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission.

Australia is a member of, and key donor to, the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency. In 2015–16, we led the delivery of projects to develop a regional catch documentation scheme and to provide support to Pacific Island countries on the traceability of Pacific tuna. The project also provided support for Pacific Island countries to ratify and implement the Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement on enhanced cooperation on efforts to combat IUU fishing, and funded Australian Fisheries Management Authority officers to provide support in training and cooperative enforcement activities.

Snapshot: Expanding exports to Vietnam

The Agricultural Trade and Market Access Cooperation program is helping Australian meat exporters expand their business into Vietnam. A grant under the program provided funding to Meat and Livestock Australia and LiveCorp to support a Vietnamese Government seminar on cattle breeding practices.

Experts from Australia and Vietnam shared information with about 150 participants on cattle production systems in Australia, the use of reproductive technologies for breeding, and the importance of adequate nutrition for successful breeding operations. The seminar highlighted practical alternatives, with experiences in breeding that are applied effectively in other parts of South East Asia.

Beef currently accounts for 12 per cent of meat consumption in Vietnam. This is changing rapidly and the demand for high-quality beef, particularly from Australia, has increased over the past three years.

This project demonstrates how the grants program is helping to open, improve and maintain access to overseas markets by building stronger relationships with trading partners and international organisations. It also highlights the important role of our new agriculture counsellor in Hanoi, who was instrumental in arranging the seminar.

Photo: Breeding Cattle for Profit workshop in Vietnam. 

Photo: Breeding Cattle for Profit workshop in Vietnam.

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