Japanese free trade deal looking good for farmers

NORTHERN Rivers farmers will be celebrating the Australian Government's historic free trade deal with Japan, as beef, dairy and horticultural industries are set to enjoy tariff eliminations and reductions.

North Coast National Agricultural and Industrial Society president and cattle farmer John Gibson said the beef industry in particular would benefit from the gradual halving of a current 38.5% tariff on frozen beef imports to Japan over 15 years.

"Anything like this is really going to help us, but we've just got to see what the government means by "deep cuts in the first year"," Mr Gibson said.

"On the surface it sounds like really good news for local agriculture.

"I'd say this has to be a plus for the industries in the long term.

"The sooner the tariffs came off the better."

Owner of Hoffman Beef Consulting in Casino, Bill Hoffman, agreed, but noted that "the devil is in the detail".

"Any improvement on our ability to export beef is welcomed by the industry because we export a large percentage of the beef we produce. We simply don't have the population to consume it all," he said.

"The Japanese market, while not the highest in volume, is Australia's highest value market."

Mr Hoffman said free trade deals in the works with China and South Korea also seemed like good news for the local industry.

"The true challenges for farmers are tariffs and exchange rates," he said.

Member for Page Kevin Hogan said the agreement would be "good for the economy of Page, good for jobs, good for farmers and good for consumers".

As part of the Economic Partnership Agreement with Japan, cheese will now have duty-free access, alongside a "wide array of horticultural products such as fruit, vegetables and nuts", a Federal Government statement said.


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