Farmers not happy with deal

THE Japan-Australia free trade agreement represents an "opportunity missed" for South Coast dairy farmers, a leading industry representative believes.

The Japan-Australia agreement has split the farming sector, beef producers welcoming it while dairy and pork farmers and sugarcane growers have expressed disappointment.

It was struck last week after seven years of negotiation.

Mike Logan is chief executive of Dairy Connect NSW, which represents dairy farmers, manufacturers and vendors.

Mr Logan said the deal was more akin to a "trade liberalisation agreement" and that dairy needed to be front and centre of any deal with China.

"It was called a free trade agreement, but it isn't one," he said. "There's nothing free about it."

Mr Logan said the tariffs on dairy hadn't significantly dropped, meaning farmers would only gain about 0.1 of a cent per litre over 20 years.

"It's a circus, it's all theatre, the whole idea that we get anything free," he said.

"The Japanese can sell pretty much anything they like in Australia without tariffs. But we can't sell our dairy there without in some cases attracting a tariff of possibly 30 per cent."

Australian Dairy Industry Council deputy chairman Robert Poole said the agreement fell well short of the industry's expectations.

"There has been no movement in this agreement on fresh cheese - the number one objective for Australian dairy, with tariffs to remain at 29.8 per cent," he said.

Kiama councillor and Jamberoo dairy farmer Mark Honey echoed disappointment with the deal, saying "it seems to be free for some and not for others".

"They have made a small concession for the amount of cheddar cheese coming in from the dairy industry," he said.

"But for butter and processed milk, our major commodities, the restrictions remain.

"We weren't the only primary industry to miss out - sugar missed out totally. Beef and wine benefit immensely."

The ADIC expressed "extreme disappointment" regarding the deal and said Japan was the single most important market for the Australian dairy industry, with $511 million in exports in 2012-13, 19 per cent of our dairy exports by value.

It says the Australian dairy industry will save just $4.7 million in the first year of its implementation, rising to an estimated $11.6 million by 2031.

National Farmers' Federation president Brent Finlay said they were disappointed with the overall outcomes for agriculture, as several sectors faced marginal improvements or limited commercial gains.

Mr Logan said cheese was the "big loser", with Bega Cheese a significant exporter to Japan.

"They're uncompetitive with overseas producers with regard to deals in Japan," he said.

"Bega could have been a major beneficiary, but aren't.

"For South Coast dairy, this was an opportunity missed."

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