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Japanese trade deal good for beef but not so sweet for cane

The meat hanging in the production line, ready for freezing.
The meat hanging in the production line, ready for freezing.

BEEF producers may be celebrating a new trade deal struck between Australia and Japan, but sugar growers and dairy farmers say they have been left in the "too-hard basket" by the government.

The trade deal with Japan will deliver a windfall to Australian beef worth $1.4 billon with some tariffs cut by half.

Some fruits, nuts and vegetables will also be free from Japanese tariffs.

For cane growers, the news is more sombre.

Not only are the high charges put on Australian sugar to remain, Canegrowers chairman Paul Schembri fears the deal could be a template for other international trade negotiations.

"I guess we've been again consigned to the too-hard basket," Mr Schembri said.

"Japan has been a long-term and valued customer of the Australian sugar industry.

"In line with the Korean Free Trade Agreement, we were hoping import duties would be sharply reduced - they haven't been."

Mr Schembri said he now feared the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal which will govern sugar trade with the United States and Japan could be hindered.

It is a similar tale told by Queensland Dairy Organisation boss Brian Tessman who said producers nationally would be disappointed with the deal.

Mr Tessman hoped better export prospects for Victorian and southern New South Wales farmers would create fairer prices domestically and drag up what farmers are paid in Queensland.

Without that, he now hoped a better deal was struck in upcoming trade negotiations with China.

"The government would have to work a lot harder for that to happen," he said.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he would sign the deal as soon as possible.

Negotiations on the Japanese trade arrangement began in 2007.

Topics:  beef farming sugar



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