Australia’s ‘worthless’ free trade agreements killing agriculture 

Feb 22, 2023

Australia’s ‘worthless’ free trade agreements killing agriculture 

Feb 22, 2023

THE Federal Government’s free-trade deals aren’t “worth the paper their written on,” Kennedy MP Bob Katter says as large farming corporations struggle to turn profits and consider selling, amid export bans on their produce.

A bid to relaunch Queensland’s fruit and vegetable exports, after the devastation caused to the industry by fruit flies, has reignited following reports one of the country’s largest avocado growers is considering selling its farms.

Costa Group has told media it is looking at “trimming” its avocado business following unprofitable years with weather events and inability to export from Australia’s east coast impacting the bottom line[1].

Mr Katter said if a big company like Costa was cutting back on avocados, then inevitably, small farmers would go to the wall.

“The jobs that will disappear with the sale or demise of our farms is a direct result of these worthless free trade agreements, when the Government promised so much to growers and allowed them to expand without any real chance of trading internationally,” he said.

“Now they’re facing challenges with excess supply, and no opportunity to export that produce because no one in the Government will stand up for Australian farmers.

“It’s even more absurd because there is a solution for avocados staring at them in the face – it’s been reported to me that there is an agreement that we can export avocados at risk of fruit flies by freezing for seven hours first. But whether its fumigating or freezing, our Governments should be providing these services if they’re fair dinkum about exports.

Mr Katter said that other fruit and vegies growers weren’t as fortunate and spoke on the Export Control Amendment Bill earlier this month doubling down on the need for fumigation facilities, which would allow Queensland growers to meet international standards and send their produce overseas to large markets such as Japan and China.

“When I was the Minister for Northern Development (in State Parliament), we realised that we had to put a fumigation plant in Cairns, which is one of the centres of fruit and vegetable growing in Australia. But the government went down before we got it in.

“Thirty years later, we still haven’t got a fumigation plant. It is quite justified for another country to say: ‘If you want to send bananas, mangoes or whatever to us, then we don’t want any of your diseases; we want it fumigated before it leaves Australia’.

“Build a fumigation plant in Cairns or your free trade agreements are worthless. It is desperately needed. Build a fumigation plant now if you’re fair dinkum about exporting fruit and vegetables from this country.”

[1]Costa Group: Why Australia’s biggest avocado grower will sell some farms (