OPINION: Bully called out, at a price

Raelene HallMidwest Times
While WA looks for new markets for its barley, what about those existing crops? ask farmers like Mark Adams.
Camera IconWhile WA looks for new markets for its barley, what about those existing crops? ask farmers like Mark Adams. Credit: Albany Advertiser

Grain growers are on their tractors sowing this year’s crop, while anxiously watching the forecast for some desperately needed rain.

Apart from a lack of rain there are myriad things that can go wrong at seeding, from vehicle breakdowns and injuries to running out of seed.

The one thing farmers wouldn’t have been expecting was to have the market for one of their grains virtually ripped out from under them overnight.

The Chinese have imposed an 80 per cent tariff on imports of barley from Australia for the next five years.

Supposedly this is the result of a Chinese investigation, begun in 2018, into accusations Australia was dumping barley on to their market and that our farmers are subsidised.

These are false accusations, but it hasn’t stopped the Chinese putting the boot in.

There is an argument that our Prime Minister has caused this tariff to be imposed now because of his call for an independent investigation into the cause of the coronavirus. China was not happy about his recommendation.

Some people have a simplistic answer: don’t buy anything Chinese made. Replace it with Australian-made. The bottom line is the majority of what we buy is not made in Australia, and for some people, affordability has to be a priority over nationality.

Have we become far too reliant on China as a trading partner?

Probably, but it has happened over a long period of time and cannot be reversed overnight, if at all.

The old adage “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is very true but you need to realise this at the beginning of an agreement, not many decades later.

Hopefully new markets can be sourced for our barley, and any other Australian exports China may choose to target, but this takes time and careful negotiation.

It’s unlikely to be available to those with barley already in the ground in 2020.

Bullies are bullies, whether children, adults, bosses or countries. We are becoming far more proactive in how we deal with bullies in our own backyard.

Perhaps it is time we started to push back against global bullies.

The problem with this is, as it always will be, some industry will inevitably pay the price for calling out the global bullies.

In this instance, and not for the first time, it is our farmers who are paying the price.

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