Thursday, 23 March 2023
Questions without Notice
International Relations: Australia and India
My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Watt. One of the largest Indian diasporas in Australia is in Victoria, and they're extremely interested in Prime Minister Albanese's recent trip to India. I've had many constituents ask me about it. I was wondering if you could elaborate further on what Prime Minister Albanese's discussions with Prime Minister Modi were about and provide an update on how Aussie farmers will benefit from the Prime Minister's recent trip to India.
and India. It's not surprising that it comes from Senator White, who comes from good farming stock herself. I know that not long ago she attended a very important event with the dairy industry in Tatura, just outside Shepparton, and I thank her for doing so. The Prime Minister's recent trip to India, where he was triumphantly accompanied by his diligent trade minister, Senator Farrell, was obviously a great success. It really underscored the value of the relationship between our two countries, because this is a relationship that runs far deeper than just the cricket field. India was Australia's sixth-largest two-way goods and services trading partner at $34.3 billion last year, and that number is continuing to grow.
Much like it is in Australia, agriculture is a massive part of India's economy and its identity. That's why it was so exciting to announce that Australia and India had agreed on two-way agricultural trade to provide new market access for Australian Hass avocados to India and access for Indian okra to Australia. This is a significant market access opportunity for Australian avocado producers, and the good people of India will now be introduced to the wonders of smashed avocado, whether it be on a Saturday morning or any other day, right across India. The opening of this new export market has been estimated by industry to have a potential market value of approximately $25 million, so it's not surprising that this deal, negotiated by the Albanese government, has been welcomed by industry groups across the board. The Australian Fresh Produce Alliance said:
This new access is expected to provide a significant boost to the Australian avocado industry, supporting the sector's continued growth over the long-term.
Unsurprisingly, Avocados Australia backed in the announcement, saying, 'It's a tremendous achievement, and our growers and packers are very keen to prepare their businesses for India.' (Time expired)
Thanks very much for acknowledging my family's history with Tatura, where my grandparents were interned and did in fact work in agriculture. I appreciate that acknowledgement of those great people. During his visit, Prime Minister Albanese also welcomed the recent entry into force of the Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement, ECTA. Can the minister explain how ECTA is already benefiting Aussie farmers?
I'd be delighted to do so, Senator White. Again, it's good to have people on one side of the chamber who actually have real experience in agriculture going back decades, rather than people who just like to talk a lot about it. I know some of us have little hobby farms outside Warwick, and we whack on the RMs, get the old ride-on mower out and put on the hat on the weekends, but there are a few people who actually care about agriculture and know a little bit about it. Previously, exports to India peaked at $3.38 billion in 2016 on the back of then-record grain and pulse production, but changes to Indian tariffs on grains and pulses resulted in reduced Australian production, which had a massive impact on farmers across the country.
The India-Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement came into force in December 2022, and it's already proving to be a win for Aussie farmers. Not only is it opening up new markets for our top-quality products; we're also seeing the removal or reduction of tariffs on existing trade. This presents great opportunities for Australian farmers. (Time expired)
Thank you so much for that answer. Can the minister outline what the Albanese government is doing to support Aussie farmers, processors and exporters to take advantage of new market access opportunities like those with India?
Thank you again, Senator White. Whether it be in the wilds of Warwick or the coffee shops of Elwood, we know the coalition are very strong when it comes to agriculture! The Albanese government is focused on opening—
Opposition senators interjecting—
That is a good reminder. On direct relevance: as much as Warwick has some wild areas, particularly at my local pub, which you should come to some time, Minister—
The Albanese government is focused on opening doors for Australia's agriculture and processing industries to grow and diversify their overseas markets. India's large population and diversifying economy is creating new demand for premium and healthy produce, which Australia is well placed to deliver on. Specifically, rising consumer incomes and increasing rates of urbanisation in India mean that opportunities are likely to be concentrated in the rapidly growing high-end produce market. These are the types of opportunities that will present themselves because of other key free-trade agreements, which are still being finalised, including with the UK and the EU. It's hoped that the UK deal will be finalised shortly, which will be a major boost to Australia's beef, lamb and, in particular, sugar industry. I want to acknowledge all of the work of people from DAFF, DFAT— (Time expired)