Growers and exporters fight proposed new charges
Prices of some exporting fees for fruit, vegetable, nut and flower could almost triple under a proposed government scheme.
A FEDERAL Government plan to raise export costs for fruit, vegetables, nuts and flowers is now more than two years behind schedule, with the latest iteration attracting industry backlash over a near tripling of some prices and the inclusion of new charges.
Mounting pressure from horticulture bodies has led the Department of Agriculture to extend its deadline for public consultation on a new horticulture export scheme to early January. The first draft was released in 2015.
The extension will allow the group — tipped to include at least eight of the nation’s biggest horticultural associations — to craft a joint submission calling for a complete reworking of the Government’s export cost-recovery arrangements.
The proposed model would see the exporter levy increase 275 per cent, the cost of a phytosanitary certificate jump from $36 to $115 and registration fees to rise 47 per cent.
New costs announced in the 2018-19 Federal Budget would cover scientific and technical advice, support for detained consignments and enforcement activities, adding $1.53 million to the scheme’s cost base.
Australian Horticultural Exporters’ Association chief executive Andréa Magiafoglou said the changes could “critically impact” exporters’ competitiveness.
AusVeg spokesman Tyson Cattle said the peak body for vegetable and potato growers wanted greater transparency.
“We’re not against cost recovery, but we want to make sure it’s fair and equitable,” Mr Cattle said.
“Our view is, given that horticulture is in its infancy in terms of exports, there needs to be some time for the industry to fully mature, so we don’t want any impediments to growth.”
The Government is eager for the proposed model to get ministerial approval so the new fees can be introduced on July 1 next year.
The current scheme is racking up losses of more than $6.3 million.
A Department of Agriculture spokesman said the Government had engaged widely.
“We are seeking to recover the expense of functions that are already being delivered to or on behalf of industry,” he said. “The price increases will ensure the department is sustainably recovering the full cost of the regulation activity.”