THE Australian Government has secured a landmark market access outcome for Australian rice growers in the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United Kingdom announced yesterday evening.
Access to the UK market is currently extremely restricted for Australian milled rice products because of tariff rate quota arrangements inherited from the European Union.
The new deal will include complete removal of all tariff and quota arrangements for short and medium grain rice varietals from the first day of the FTA coming into effect, with some tariff and quota arrangements remaining in place for long grain varietals.
The majority of Australian rice production is in high-quality short and medium grain varietals, although the industry also produces some premium long-grain Japonica varietals.
SunRice chairman and Moulamein rice grower, Laurie Arthur, said the deal was a significant outcome for Australian rice growers and the Riverina rice industry.
“We have been working closely with the Australian Government for the past 12 months as they sought to finalise this deal, and it is incredibly pleasing to see such a significant market access outcome for Australian value-added rice exports,” he said.
“While rice has unfortunately failed to benefit in any meaningful way from other recent Free Trade Agreements that Australia has negotiated, that is not the case with this deal.
“It is not an overstatement to say that this is the most significant market access outcome for Australian rice exports in any of the recent Free Trade Agreements that the Government has delivered.”
Mr Arthur said the UK deal would secure another high-value market for premium branded Australian rice products, which was an uplifting outcome for growers recovering from the past two years of near-record low production.
“Currently, we are only able to export about 700 tonnes of Australian rice products to the United Kingdom before incredibly prohibitive tariffs kick in, which impacts on the commercial viability of increasing exports,” he said.
“However, the removal of these quota and tariff arrangements of short and medium grain varietals will drastically increase the attractiveness of the United Kingdom as an export destination for our Australian rice products.
“Our growers are the most water efficient rice producers in the world, with some of the highest yields and premium varietals that are valued by our consumers and customers in approximately 50 global markets.
“Our rice industry is a poster child of Australian agriculture – producing premium clean and green rice, and then processing that rice in SunRice’s Riverina facilities into value-added high-value branded products which are then exported worldwide.
“This is a great result for the Australian rice industry and as there is no rice grown in the United Kingdom, it will have zero impact on any of our farming colleagues in the UK.”
SunRIce Group chief executive officer, Rob Gordon, said the immediate removal of tariffs and quotas for short and medium grain varietals would deliver benefits for the Australian rice industry:
“This deal will open up the United Kingdom market for potential increased exports of high-quality branded Australian rice products, further diversifying the premium markets which are available globally,” he said.
“Given the similarities between the Australian and United Kingdom retail and food service markets, there is a significant opportunity for the SunRice Group to grow retail and food service sales with these more liberalised trade arrangements.
“I congratulate the Australian and United Kingdom Governments for delivering this deal largely in accordance with their goal of achieving trade liberalisation.
“We are hopeful that this deal can be ratified as quickly as possible, and look forward to continuing to work with the Australian Government to demonstrate that the remaining tariff and quota arrangements for long grain varietals should also be fully liberalised.”
Source: SunRice Group