AUSTRALIA’S notoriously fragmented horticulture sector has joined forces to unanimously oppose price hikes to export fees.
The fees are flagged to come into effect on July 1 and will over-recover more than $3.5 million during the next four years.
Eight major industry associations — Apple and Pear Australia, Australian Horticultural Exporters’ and Importers’ Association, Australian Mango Industry Association, Australian Table Grape Association, AusVeg, Cherry Growers Australia, Citrus Australia and Summerfruit Australia — have called on the Federal Government to re-engage with stakeholders before introducing a new cost recovery model for horticulture export services.
Earlier this year the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources released a draft document outlining new levies for 2018-19, including a doubling of the phytosanitary certificate levy from $38 a document to $78. It would also increase the horticultural products levy to non-protocol countries by 160 per cent, from $0.65 to $1.70 a tonne, and to protocol countries from $1.30 to $3.40 a tonne.
Australian Horticultural Exporters’ and Importers’ Association chief executive Dominic Jenkin said the scheme was “fundamentally flawed”. “I see no way it can proceed. Loading up charges on tonnages will significantly impact the sector,” Mr Jenkin said.
“It has the potential to undermine the whole model because it would become unfeasible for most to continue trading.”
He said the Federal Government was seeking to recover considerably more than the cost of providing export certification services.
The department has stated in its draft document it would not seek to recoup years of under-recovery. But the forecast opening cost recovery reserve has a negative balance of $3.8 million, and the proposed model would recapture this deficit, beginning in 2018-19.
Paul Scheffer, general manager of exports for major fruit and vegetable exporter T & G, said the proposed new costs would make Australian horticulture uncompetitive on a global stage.
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources said it was now considering stakeholder feedback.
“This feedback will inform the final, publicly available document,” a spokesman said.
ALEXANDRA LASKIE, The Weekly Times