Australian agriculture “remains strong” despite Russian bans, Australian Government

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 11th August 2014
Australian agriculture “remains strong” despite Russian bans, Australian Government
Australian agriculture “remains strong” despite Russian bans, Australian Government

The Australian Government has said that it is disappointed by the Russian Government’s decision to ban imports of agricultural products, raw materials and foodstuffs from countries that have imposed sanctions in relation to Russia in response to events in Ukraine. The ban is effective for one year.

According to the Australian Government, Australia’s total trade with Russia represents just 0.4 per cent of Australia’s trade overall and one per cent if only agricultural exports are taken into account. Australian agricultural exports to Russia in 2013 were valued at about A$405 million but included some commodities now already banned including beef (A$159 million); milk and dairy products (A$76 million); live animals, excluding seafood, (A$55 million); and fruit and nuts (A$9 million). Russia ranks number 28 on Australia’s list of export destinations.

In a joint media release, Andrew Robb AO MP, Minister for Trade and Investment and Barnaby Joyce MP, Minister for Agriculture said that rather than listening to international concern about its actions in Ukraine, Russia has chosen to apply import restrictions that “will do nothing to ease the violence in Ukraine”.

The Australian Government is currently working to assess the full impact of the Russian Federation ban on imports of certain agricultural products, raw materials and foodstuffs from Australia.

“Our priority is to ensure the ongoing success of Australian agricultural producers and exporters,” Mr Robb and Mr Joyce said in their media release. “The government is already working to ensure Australian producers have access to a wide range of alternative markets,” he said.

Mr Robb and Mr Joyce said the immediate focus for the Australian Government was to manage those exports that are currently at sea or in transit to Russian markets and to assist exporters in redirecting them, wherever possible, to alternative destinations.

“The strong reputation of our agricultural producers and the commodities they produce means there is always demand in many other markets for Australia’s quality products,” Mr Robb and Mr Joyce said.

“We are concerned that Russia’s ban may not comply with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules,” Mr Robb and Mr Joyce said. “We are considering all options in relation to these new restrictions, and will be consulting with other affected trading partners,” they said.

Farmers concerned with Russia’s ban on food imports

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has expressed its concern over Russia’s decision to impose a ban on food imports from Australia, a market that contributes roughly $400 million to Australia’s economy each year.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the year-long ban would affect imports of beef, pork, fruit, vegetables, poultry, fish and dairy products from the EU, US, Australia, Canada and Norway.

NFF President Brent Finlay said the farm sector was concerned about disruptions to export markets due to the fact Australia exports over 60 per cent of its agricultural produce, and is inherently export orientated.

“We expect some Australian farmers to directly feel the effects of the sanctions,” Mr Finlay said. “However, the severity of total impact to the farm sector is still to be determined,” he said.

Mr Finlay said the Australian Government “needs to seek greater clarity on the details of the ban and determine what this may mean for the sectors affected”. He said that a “strong commitment” was needed from the Australian Government to work closely with the farm sector to facilitate the movement of produce to alternative markets, which would have otherwise been exported to Russia.

“As it stands, a key concern for Australia will be around the global marketplace and the flow-on effects to the Australian farm sector, a cornerstone of the Australian economy,” Mr Finlay said. “As the ban was placed on a number of key western trading partners, we may see increased competition from these players affected by the ban, as they look to sell their products to other markets,” he said.

“More broadly, this reiterates the NFF’s call to ensure bilateral trade agreements with other nations have commercially meaningful outcomes and the need to further develop relationships with other trading partners during this period,” said Mr Finlay.