Free trade deal opens world of opportunity for primary producers

Limestone Coast producers have tentatively welcomed a historic free trade agreement with India, which will eliminate tariffs on more than 85% of trade to India.

On Saturday India agreed to slash tariffs on a raft of Australia products, including wool, wine, sheep meat and fresh lobster.

After experiencing roadblocks trading with China, which saw local lobster and wine effectively dumped from the Chinese market, the opening of the India market provides new opportunities.

Ferguson Australia Group manager and director Andrew Ferguson said he was hopeful opportunities would arise in the seafood industry due to the agreement.

“We would be willing to explore the chances of export to India,” he said.

“Any opportunity we see opening in a new market is certainly worth looking into.

“The loss of the direct route of live lobster export to China had a huge impact on the industry but there are other sophisticated markets in the world that will take our product in other formats and we welcome them.”

Local lobster fisherman Brad Long is optimistic about the opening of the Indian market.

He has been on deck at the Rivoli Queen in Carpenters Rocks helping out a friend as he and his father filled their lobster quota a month ago.

“There have not been many fisherman out amid the loss of China as a major export so there have been more crayfish,” he said.

“The opening of the seafood export market to India should be positive for all fishermen.

“I do not see how it would not be.

“It will be good to see other fishermen out and about again.”

Balnaves of Coonawarra business manager Kirsty Balnaves said the signing of the Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement would not be the silver bullet answer to China due to the significant loss to the industry, however it was a good opportunity to build into the Indian market.

“India’s market’s is maturing and there’s more people starting to understand wine in India, so it’s good news,” she said.

“But it’s not going to replace China.

“It’s good news for small and medium growers, because that’s where I think the Indian market fits well for us as there is interest in the premium wines segment as can be seen in the value growth of the market from the December 21 report, and that’s also the area of our industry that’s had some significant pain due to China.

“But I think it’s also good for the big companies well, I think it’s good for everyone.”

Ms Balnaves said the wine industry was facing significant challenges, including China, COVID, sourcing labour and costs of labour as well as the potential oversupply of red grapes.

She said the industry must keep looking at diverse export markets, continue to diversify their markets and build loyalty in the markets they were currently in.

“And just try and find more solid markets that we can organically grow into and start to look at finding some of the place that China had,” she said.

Ms Balnaves said if China opened up again it would be great and hoped it would as many people developed good relationships in China, however it would be a different market to what it was previously.

“There’s other countries that have filled Australia’s spot in lists, we have got to look at it with fresh eyes again if we ever get back into China,” she said.

“We cannot look back, we have to look forward, and India’s a stepping stone once this all plays out and the regulations and how the tariffs are going to change, it’s good news.

“There are lots of positives for small, medium and large companies to make the most of what the government is doing, opening the doors for us to walk into with India.”

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