Budget 2020: Big spend for ag exports

By: Andrew Hobbs

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The Federal Government will spend $222 million over four years to modernise digital services for agricultural exporters, as part of a $328 million spend on the sector.

Budget 2020: Big spend for ag exports
The budget spend will set out to improve ICT systems for seafood, meat, plant and live animal exports. Image courtesy Alamy


Announced in the Federal Budget on Tuesday, the funding will be invested in information and communications technology systems the government says will help farmers and exporters get their goods into overseas markets more reliably.

"The new systems will reduce the impact to trade from system outages, reduce the regulatory burden on exporters, improve access to the kind of information that a business needs to enter a market, and ensure Government services can adapt to the evolving digital global trade environment," budget papers say.

"Targeted investments in technology and in the improvement of regulatory compliance processes will ensure the Government’s agricultural export services keep pace with these changes and support the aim of a $100 billion agriculture industry by 2030."

The extension of incentives for workers to relocate for farm work in this year's budget has also won praise from industry groups. 

The government will also spend $106.2 million over four years from 2020-21 to streamline export regulations, including aligning audit and verification activities with domestic, export and market access requirements.

New technology-based regulations for seafood, meat, live animal and plant exporters will be funded under this package, in a move the government says will make it easier for producers to access new export markets.

Agriculture minister David Littleproud says the changes will modernise Australia’s export systems and remove red tape.

"We’re making it faster and cheaper for farmers to get their product to market, while retaining the levels of quality and assurance that have made our exports world-class."

"These investments form part of our Ag 2030 Plan, supporting industry to grow Australian agriculture to a $100 billion by 2030 through modern export systems."

The funding was welcomed by National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson, who says making exports easier is essential for the government to hit that $100 billion target.

"Exporters welcome the Government’s commitment to address outdated, frustrating regulations and to streamline the compliance process," she says.

"A $317 million continuation of the COVID air freight assistance package is also good news for exporters, as is an extra $51 million in grants to assist exporters with the cost of reaching new international markets."

The International Freight Assistance Mechanism, which has been extended into 2021, is helping some Australian growers export their production by air freight after COVID-19 made their earlier export options more difficult.

James Whiteside, chief executive of Australian vegetable growers’ peak body AusVeg, says the Government has heeded the concerns of industry and addressed the key areas that were impacting the industry’s confidence in the months and years ahead due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19.

"The extension of the International Freight Assistance Mechanism into 2021 and additional support to improve the export environment for exporters is also welcome news, as it is vital to ensure the industry can remain a major contributor to the global supply chain as the world emerges from COVID-19 in the years ahead," he says.

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