Home' Grower : September 2009 Contents The South Australian Grower -- September 2009 9
THE Federal Government's removal of the 40pc Export Certification subsidy on Australian
Quarantine Inspection Service fees has increased costs to the horticulture industry by $3.5m each
By STEPHEN COOKE
Good Fruit & Vegetables*
THE Federal Government's removal of
the 40 per cent Export Certification sub-
sidy on Australian Quarantine Inspection
Ser vice fees will cost the horticulture industry
$3.5 million extra each year.
The government decided not to change a
sunset clause in the legislative fine print that
said the 40pc subsidy would expire on June 30.
It also did not consult with the Australian
Horticultural Exporters Association or the
Horticulture Australia Council on the mat-
ter or advise them of its decision.
AQIS has since raised its inspection costs
substantially for this financial year to cover
These inspection costs are paid by
exporters who then factor such prices into
the amount paid to growers.
Proposed weekday inspection costs have
risen from $160 an hour to $272/h, while
the additional fee to have an inspector
attend on a weekend or public holiday has
risen from $141 to $240.
AHEA deputy-chairman David Minnis
said the decision came as a shock and
described the timing as unbelievably poor.
"Up until this year, when we've been able
to kick some goals when our dollar was
US65 cents, exports have been declining
year on year," he said.
"Australia has had a 59pc decline in
exports since 2005 when we lost the Taiwan
General manager for major southern
Australian exporter Riversun Steven Allen,
said he heard of the change in June and that
it would impact on grower prices.
"The government wants the export com-
munity to pay 100pc of export charges and
I believe we would be the only country in
the world that does this," he said.
"The timing is unbelievable. The economy is
on its knees and the horticulture sector is on its
knees due to the drought. It's not like they
gave us 12 months to prepare for the 40pc rise.
"I haven't seen anything like it, even freight
rates don't go up 40pc. It will only hurt agri-
cultural exports. The government will turn
around in 12 months and wonder why we're
not exporting as much as we used to."
An independent review commissioned by
the government into Australia's quarantine
and biosecurity systems, chaired by Roger
Beale, made 84 recommendations in its
report released last September, including
endorsing the Export Certification Subsidy
lapse, as scheduled, on June 30.
HAC chief executive officer Kris Newton
said she only became aware in April that the
government would adopt the recommenda-
tion and implement it for the upcoming
financial year. The AHEA became aware in
early February through unofficial channels.
Mr Minnis believes the Horticultural
Export Consultative Committee, which was
formed by Federal Agriculture Minister
Tony Burke two years ago, was told about
the sunset clause last September.
It was then asked to prepare a series of
three fee models to cover the 40pc black
hole caused by the withdrawal of govern-
ment funds. Mr Minnis said HECC was dis-
banded at about the end of March.
The members of HECC were all bound by
confidentiality agreements. Ms Newton said
it was ironic that a consultative committee
was banned from consulting. She said HAC
strongly opposed the removal of the 40pc
"We believe this is a blunt instrument in
policy terms, and poorly-timed without ade-
quate warning to industr y," Ms Newton said.
However, she has welcomed the govern-
ment's $40 million reform package at AQIS,
announced after exporting bodies expressed
their concerns at the removal of the subsidy.
Minister Burke established a Ministerial
Taskforce for each of the affected sectors to
help develop reform programs for their
AQIS export ser vices.
Ms Newton said HAC accepted the
increase in AQIS fees and charges as an
interim measure this financial year to ensure
its costs were covered.
However, a transition to a more responsive,
efficient and cost-effective export inspection and
certification program must begin immediately.
* Good Fruit & Vegetables is Rural Press' national
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