Relationship fixing should be top of 2021 trade agenda

Relationship fixing should be top of 2021 trade agenda

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LAST year will always be remembered as the COVID-19 outbreak year and we all hope this will not continue to plague us in 2021. It was a year where highlights...

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Contributed by PPSA chair Rob Kerin*

CRITICAL: Rob Kerin says while exporters do need to diversify their markets, they still need good access to China.

CRITICAL: Rob Kerin says while exporters do need to diversify their markets, they still need good access to China.

*Mr Kerin recently announced he was taking a three-month leave of absence from the role

LAST year will always be remembered as the COVID-19 outbreak year and we all hope this will not continue to plague us in 2021.

It was a year where highlights were a little hard to find, but agriculture, as an essential service, fortunately continued to operate while many others needed to close down.

However, many agricultural businesses with a focus on hospitality and many in our border communities were far more affected than most.

For many agricultural businesses, the evolving situation concerning exports to China is having a much bigger impact on business than the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal government has worked hard to set up trade deals with a number of other countries and we appreciate this progress.

But if we are to keep our exporters, and suppliers like wine grapegrowers, viable then any analysis of our exports to China and the potential of the other markets would strongly suggest fixing the relationship has got to be part of the solution.

If we do not find a diplomatic solution to the China problem, then we have many industries which will battle in 2021.

The Limestone Coast region is a good example of how the problem will impact, with the Coonawarra and other South East wine regions heavily-reliant on China as a market, while the timber and rock lobster industries are also suffering.

It is not just about the Chinese market being the biggest, but also about the prices we attract from them for our quality product.

Statements about us needing to diversify our markets are valid, but losses of Chinese markets cannot be covered by establishing sales in to other markets in the short or medium term.

There were variable conditions across the state in 2020. The Upper Eastern Eyre Peninsula and several other regions have done it hard with seasonal conditions, frost and timing of rainfall.

We also have some regions who have had very good seasons and showing that agriculture is still the major economic contributor to the state's economy.

Last year will also be remembered as the year we joined every other mainland state in having the choice to grow genetically-modified crops - a major achievement of Grain Producers SA, their board and staff.

Also in 2020, we saw the new Landscapes Boards come in to existence and we wish them well in their very important role. We also saw the introduction of the Landholder information service to ensure farmers have access to the necessary information if they are dealing with mining and exploration companies.

This year will see ongoing consultations with industry on biosecurity, planning and Pastoral Act issues.

This year will be important in determining the future of many businesses either directly or indirectly reliant on exports to China.

Yes we need to diversify, but we still need good access to China.

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