CITRUS Australia has rejected a proposal from the federal government that would result in export certification fees increasing by 277 per cent.
It says this would cost the average grower $30,000 before any cartons have even been exported.
Earlier this month, the federal Department of Agriculture released its proposed feeds and charges for export certification across the next four years.
Citrus Australia chief executive officer Nathan Hancock said he was astonished at the size of the increases for a service.
Citrus Australia claims the rises for growers include:
- a 277pc rise in tonnage charge for protocol markets from $1.30 a tonne to $4.90/t
- a 277pc rise in tonnage charge for non-protocol markets from 65 cents/t to $2.45/t
- a 44pc rise for the annual Export Establishment registration fee from $6000 to $8655
- a 58pc rise in hourly audit rate from $144 an hour to $228/hr
Mr Hancock said the proposed fee structure did not have support from Citrus Australia and has called for a detailed and transparent examination of the program costs.
"At a time when we are suffering the worst drought in living memory, the government is increasing charges on our growers by exorbitant amounts," he said.
"For the average grower that wants to export, the proposed costs will equate to around $30,000 per year before they have even exported a single carton. They will be then be charged more than $250 per container to export.
"The federal Coalition claims that it wants to grow Australian agriculture and support its farmers during the drought, but these price rises show these claims lack all sincerity.
"Federal Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie has signed off on what can only be described as an incredibly poor piece of policy."
Mr Hancock said the citrus industry does not disagree with cost recovery from government.
But he said the government needed to provide a detailed explanation of its program costs to enable a constructive engagement process.
"This is particularly important as the Department has a monopoly on export certification so there is no alternative provider for growers to compare," he said.
Mr Hancock said the Department of Agriculture had effectively ignored the advice of Citrus Australia and other representative bodies.
"In March 2018, we provided a detailed submission to government outlining our concerns - but clearly the Department has disregarded everything we wrote," he said.
"It also seems there has been no effort to engage directly with affected businesses or allow them to participate in the process.
"We believe the Department has a responsibility to go out and talk to affected businesses and not expect industry associations to do their consultation for them."
Consultation is open until December 10.
Start the day with all the big news in agriculture. Click here to sign up to receive our daily Stock Journal newsletter.