Victorian farmers now have a competitive advantage, writes Andrew Robb.
Farmers know better than most the importance of being alert to shifting local and global markets.
They're aware of evolving consumer demands and they're ready and willing to seize the opportunities these changes create.
For growers and producers across Victoria, the start of the free-trade agreement with Japan is certainly a game-changer, providing significant avenues for growth for those ready to capitalise on it.
This is the most ambitious freetrade agreement Japan has concluded with anyone, let alone a major agricultural economy, and the opportunities for rural and regional areas are there for the taking.
Already a significant export market, with Australian imports into Japan last year worth $1.4 billion, beef producers will be a major beneficiary of the free-trade agreement, with the 38.5 per cent tariff to be cut significantly over 15 years, with heavy frontend loading.
On January 15, tariffs were cut by about one fifth, with further tariff cuts due on April 1. This will give Australian beef exporters a major advantage over the US our major competitor and I encourage beef producers who haven't done so already to explore the potential of the Japanese market.
For wine producers, tariffs of up to 15 per cent will be phased out in the coming years, while tariffs on bulk wine have been scrapped altogether, benefiting current exporters and creating opportunities for would-be overseas traders.
For dairy farmers seeking potential offshore customers, the agreement creates a lucrative avenue for trade in products such as cheese, ice cream and yoghurt, with duty-free or preferential quotas on these items.
I encourage horticulturists, too, to take advantage of the changes created by the agreement, with fast tariff elimination on most homegrown produce including asparagus, cherries, grapes, macadamia nuts and almonds.
Australian farmers and producers compete successfully around the world on quality, safety and reputation and thanks to the agreement, this competitive advantage has been enhanced even more.
Now is the time to take advantage of the opportunities and explore the potential the agreement creates.
• Trade Minister's Office: (02) 6277 7420
• DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555