According to the Australian customs service, the importation of Chinese food products into Australia continues to increase, to the detriment of local production.1Between January 1 and May 31 2009, 4,200 tons of prawns and over 5,300 tons of vegetables were imported from China, an average increase of 35% in Chinese imports compared to 2007. This now makes China Australia’s second-largest importer, behind New Zealand.
In a nation that has historically been attached to free trade, these facts would have gone unnoticed had Australian farmers not notified the political decision-makers about the exceptionally low prices of imported Chinese foodstuffs – prices at which the Australian farmers are unable to compete, and which encourage the progressive disappearance of some Australian sectors, as has been the case for garlic, 90% of which now comes from China.
This situation has alerted Australia, which has always taken quite an offensive stance at the WTO with regard to agricultural subsidies and market access, and on the potential dangers of unregulated liberalization of the agricultural markets. Let’s at least hope that it has in fact alerted them.
1 Quoted in The Australian, 31/08/2009, “Fears as Chinese food pours in, farmers claim lost markets and biosecurity risk” http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26004280-2702,00.html