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Australian horticulture export body says proposed cost rises will be unmanageable for farmers

Australia's peak horticulture export body has called on the Federal Government to reconsider plans to increase the costs of export certification services.

Eleven industry signatories, comprising key industry representative bodies from exporting horticultural industries and members of the Department’s Horticulture Export Industry Consultative Committee were united to oppose the substantial increases to export certification in a joint submission to the Department of Agriculture (DoA). The Australian Horticultural Exporters’ and Importers’ Association (AHEIA) has united with other horticultural industry bodies to oppose these changes.

"The cost increases, of over 40 per cent for export certification services which are proposed by the Department of Agriculture in the Cost Recovery Implementation Statement Plant Exports Certification 2019-20 (CRIS), are unmanageable for the horticulture industries," AHEIA CEO Andréa Magiafoglou said. "Australian horticulture is one of the least subsidised in the OECD and horticultural exporters operate in a high-cost environment influenced by labour challenges, escalating water costs and supply chain pathways overlaid by security requirements."

The changes follow public consultation with industry that closed on 31 January 2020, but Ms Magiafoglou says it comes at a time where farmers and exporters are also facing the challenges of ongoing drought and bushfires impacting key production areas.

"The proposed changes will increase the cost of compliance by over 40 per cent and will critically impact Australia’s competitiveness and reduce export growth," she said. "We call upon the Minister for Agriculture to support the horticulture industry by not proceeding with the proposed increases to export certification. "The AHEIA understands the need for export certification requirements, as well as the need to fund the biosecurity framework to protect Australia’s borders. The AHEIA also recognises the need for the government to recover the cost of delivering these services – as long as they can be provided efficiently and charged at competitive rates."

She added: "The DoA currently recovers 48 per cent of its budget from Australian farmers and exporters which is excessive and inconsistent with other similar departments in Australia and internationally – Austrade recovers 10 per cent of its $245 million budget; the Department of Industry, Innovation & Science recovers 15 per cent of a total $508 million; and the New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries recovers only 29 per cent of its total NZ$715 million budget."

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment told FreshPlaza it is reviewing cost recovery arrangements for food and plant export certification, to ensure export certification services are sustainably funded.

"It also supports Australia’s reputation as a safe, reliable supplier of high-quality food and plant products," a departmental spokesperson said. "Export fees and charges have not been revised since 2015. Biosecurity and export certification fees and charges must be adjusted to address the actual cost of delivering regulatory activities. This will ensure the exports certification system remains fit for purpose and able to support Australia’s agricultural exports."

Among the recommendations, the AHEIA has called on the Minister for Agriculture to not proceed with implementing the proposed increase in the fees and levies in the Cost Recovery Implementation Statement Plant Exports Certification 2019-20, and the Commonwealth budget allocation be increased to ensure that sufficient funding is provided to support policy development for the agriculture sector in the future.

"DoA must separate all policy functions from cost recovery to ensure integrity in the development of policy, the appropriate allocation of policy resources to Government priorities and removal of the cost on the industry for policy development," Ms Magiafoglou said. "Industry is calling on the Commonwealth Government budget allocation to reflect the Prime Minister’s stated objective of agriculture becoming a $100 billion industry by 2030, and ensure that sufficient funding is provided to support the policy development for the agriculture sector. Implementing the proposed cost recovery model now will pre-empt the Government’s agriculture strategy and limit the future growth of Australian agriculture."

For more information
Andréa Magiafoglou
Australian Horticultural Exporters and Importers Association
admin@horticulturetrade.com.au
www.horticulturetrade.com.au

Publication date: Mon 24 Feb 2020

Author: Matt Russell
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