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From strength to strength

As recent trade agreements come into play and new international markets open up, The Hon. Barnaby Joyce, Minister for Agriculture, sees a brightening future for Australian beef.

When I see a week dedicated to the Australian beef industry, I have to admit a strong sense of pride on behalf of Australia's farming families.

Over the course of Beef Australia 2015, we'll hear a great deal about the contribution that this $7-billion industry makes to the national economy. With cattle being produced on around 71,300 farms across Australia, cattle production is an honourable endeavour driven by families and supporting rural communities.

The Coalition Government is proud to support Beef Australia 2015. For me, this week showcases the best that the Australian beef industry has to offer both the nation and the world, creating new and significant opportunities for our industry.

I am a firm believer that with fairer prices and the opportunity to compete, the Australian beef industry has a very bright future. Domestically, Australians already know the quality of Australian beef, be it grass-fed or finished on grain, and international demand continues to grow from strength to strength.

My focus as Agriculture Minister has been to work towards better returns at the farm gate by opening as many markets as possible and pursuing other important reforms that will grow the sector.

You don't have to look much further than the record beef exports we've seen recently to see that with those things in place, and with some much-needed rain, the beef industry will excel.
The value of beef and veal exports rose 29 per cent last financial year to almost $6.3 billion-the highest on record.

Over the same period, the value of the live cattle exports increased from $589 million to more than $1 billion-up an incredible 78 per cent year on year.

It's also a record result. On top of that, farmgate returns are up.

At the end of January this year, the Queensland young cattle indictor price was averaging over $4.50/kg-the highest in two years. For live exports, the value for a lightweight steer ex-Darwin was $2.70/kg, up from $1.60/kg during the final months of the previous government.

I also note that throughout January prices for lightweight steers were edging closer towards my target of $3.00/kg. Remarkable results for our farmers.

Growing markets

These results are due at least in part to a consistent effort to ensure that Australian beef producers have access to the widest possible range of international markets; we said Australia was open for business and we meant it.

The government has the enviable role of negotiating access for produce that is widely recognised as among the best-if not the best-in the world. Beef is leading the way, and we've now concluded trade deals with three of our largest beef export markets: Japan, Korea and China.

Significantly, Australia is the first major agricultural exporter to secure a bilateral trade agreement with Japan. In 2013-14, Japan was our largest beef export market, valued at $1.4 billion. The Economic Partnership Agreement we've signed with Japan features a rapid tariff reduction on beef: Tariffs on frozen Australian beef will fall from 38.5 per cent to 19.5 per cent, with chilled beef reduced from 38.5 per cent to 23.5 per cent over 15 years.

Australian beef will never again be subject to Japan's 50 per cent global snapback tariff. For once Australia has the benefit of striking a deal ahead of our competitors-we will get strong early advantage through the Japan agreement that will serve the Australian beef industry very well.

Last financial year Korea was our third-biggest market for beef, valued at $844 million. The deal we've struck with Korea will see tariffs on beef and veal eliminated over 15 years.

Korea is already giving preferential access to some of our major beef competitors; this free trade agreement will protect our competitive position in the Korean beef market well into the future.
And, of course, we've also concluded a trade deal with China, our fourth-largest beef export market at $785 million in 2013-14.

Once the agreement has been signed and implemented, tariffs on Australian beef will be eliminated over nine years in China. That's a great advantage for Australian producers in a market with huge potential.

This agreement provides our agriculture sector with significant advantages over major competitors who don't have free trade agreements with China-and closes the gap on those that do.

Each of these deals is big news for the local industry.

"They place us on a level playing field with our key competitors and will be worth billions to Australian producers over coming years. "

Live export boost

We've taken the same approach to live exports, delivering six new market opportunities for livestock exports in the past year alone: Lebanon, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Cambodia and Thailand.

We are also edging closer to finalising a health protocol with China, which will present even more opportunities to producers.

To secure new markets and maintain the ones we've got means establishing Australia as a reliable partner that can consistently meet demand with high-quality produce.

It is a testament to the effectiveness of the arrangements we have in place now that, in each new market we enter, the Export Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) underpins our trade.

We said we would review the ESCAS system to ensure that it is effective, and our review has made it clear that Australia is now an established world leader in the welfare of exported live animals, with the livestock export industry achieving an outstanding 99 per cent compliance with international animal welfare standards.

Support when it counts

There are some in the cattle sector who have been doing it tough-both financially and emotionally-as a result of drought or from the former government's decision to shut down the live export trade, and the Coalition Government is committed to looking after those facing hardship. We are rolling out a range of assistance measures for farmers, including $700 million worth of concessional loans, a more flexible and generous Farm Household Allowance, social and mental health support, as well as water infrastructure and pest management funding to help communities deal with the challenge of drought.

The future

As we close in on another Beef Australia, I want to highlight that the Coalition Government is determined to do everything we can to make Australian farms more profitable and competitive in international markets-and deliver support that counts when it's needed.

While beef can be a tough business, I am more confident now than ever before about the prospects for the cattle industry's future.

We have a strong industry with the right fundamentals in place to meet future challenges-and you have a Coalition Government in Canberra that is determined to stay at the front of its game in supporting you and the entire beef industry to grow and prosper in the years ahead.

I look forward to building on our work to date and watching the Australian beef industry realise its true potential.

The Hon. Barnaby Joyce,

Minister for Agriculture