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China FTA could harm fruit and veg growers

ABC News, Australia

Thursday, April 21, 2005

China FTA could harm fruit and veg growers

The South Australian Farmers Federation (SAFF) says the introduction of a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA)with China could decimate the state’s horticulture industry.

Prime Minister John Howard and China’s Premier Wen Jiabao launched free trade talks in Beijing on Monday.

SAFF says that South Australian fruit and vegetable growers may find it difficult to compete against the larger Chinese horticulture industry.

SAFF general manager Carol Vincent says an FTA could allow a flood of cheap vegetables to enter the market at the expense of local growers.

"China, for some horticultural products, would be able to grow it and export it cheaper than we can," he said.

"We have high labour costs in comparison to China and they have been flooding markets and lifting their production level and their quality of produce for some time.

"We’re very concerned about the effect on horticultural industries."

However, the Riverland Horticultural Council says it believes a FTA with China could provide significant benefits to the region’s horticulture industry.

It says the biggest concern is whether producers can meet the needs of the Chinese market.

Executive officer of the council Rhett Marlowe says an agreement would help in opening up new markets for some of the region’s struggling horticultural sectors like citrus and fresh fruit.

"If you try to cut certain things out or include them you’re going to distort the market, so in the end you’re better off having free trade," he said.

"It benefits both competitive countries and enterprises and in the end should adjust to the benefit of everyone.

"But, yes, biosecurity should not be compromised under any circumstances."

 source: ABC