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Opportunities for trade emerge after agriculture delegation visits India

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Aidan SmithCountryman
NSW cropper Matthew Madden with a farmer in India on his recent trip with Ag Minister Murray Watt's trade delegation.
Camera IconNSW cropper Matthew Madden with a farmer in India on his recent trip with Ag Minister Murray Watt's trade delegation. Credit: supplied

Opportunities for increased trade are opening up in India after 12 delegates from a broad cross-section of Australian agriculture visited the country.

The delegation, led by Agriculture Minister Murray Watt, included National Farmers’ Federation chief executive Tony Mahar, Meat and Livestock Australia South East Asia regional manager Valeska, Australian Meat Industry Council chief executive Patrick Hutchinson and Grain Producers Australia member Matthew Madden.

They spent three days in Delhi and Mumbai meeting with Indian government, business and industry leaders.

Minister Watt also held several high-level meetings with Indian Government ministers across the week.

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Mr Madden, a northern NSW grain producer and long-time industry advocate, said while Australian grain growers had been dealing with India for some time it was the first government-led trade trip since the Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement came into force on December 29 last year.

Under the ECTA, more than 85 per cent of Australian goods exports by value to India are now tariff-free, rising to 90 per cent by January 1, 2026, and high tariffs have been reduced on some further agricultural products.

NSW cropper Matthew Madden in India on his recent trip with Ag Minister Murray Watt's trade delegation.
Camera IconNSW cropper Matthew Madden in India on his recent trip with Ag Minister Murray Watt's trade delegation. Credit: supplied/supplied

Mr Madden said ECTA would provide “mutually beneficial trade opportunities” between the two nations and it was important for him to participate in the delegation to “explore the opportunities” that were now available.

“What I took out of the trip was that there are real opportunities there,” Mr Madden said.

He said the middle class in India was growing at a rapid rate and “their wages were not too bad” and if they changed their buying habits Australia could tap into that market.

“The middle class is economically booming in India and the population is growing at an incredible rate,” he said.

“Food security is a big issue for us and them.”

He said India had a domestic grain production of about 100 million tonnes per year, while Australia had only 30-35mt “in a good year”.

Mr Madden said there were opportunities to export legumes, especially with the demand for lentils, as well as for barley.

“The industry is working together to explore those opportunities,” he said.

“Importers are very keen to get something going — they want to do business.

NSW cropper Matthew Madden with some farmers in India on his recent trip with Ag Minister Murray Watt's trade delegation.
Camera IconNSW cropper Matthew Madden with some farmers in India on his recent trip with Ag Minister Murray Watt's trade delegation. Credit: supplied/supplied

Mr Madden said he had an opportunity while in the country to visit some local farmers who were relatives of his driver and he took it despite not speaking the language and having to rely on the driver to translate.

“I met with some real farmers on the ground — we spoke a common language,” he said.

While he shared photos of farming practices at home they discussed their farming techniques and challenges around climate change and water quality.

National Farmers’ Federation chief executive Tony Mahar said it was critically important industry and government worked in partnership on market access for all products into India.

“India provides a huge market opportunity for Australian agricultural exports,” he said.

“The population, proximity and growing purchasing power of India’s consumers is an opportunity for Australian farmers to increase their profitability through diversifying and expanding their export markets over time.

New National Farmers' Federation chief executive Tony Mahar. Picture Chalk Studio
Camera IconNew National Farmers' Federation chief executive Tony Mahar. Picture Chalk Studio Credit: National Farmers' Federation wit

Mr Mahar said Australia could help India meet any domestic production gaps and a deal provides scope for mutual benefit through sharing research and development work, and will even have flow-on benefit to other industries such as tourism and education.

The NFF is seeking new and improved market access across Australia’s whole range of agricultural products in the new agreement.

“We’ve started sowing a good crop in Australia’s agricultural trade relationship with India, but we want to pick up wins for other commodities like wheat and chickpeas,” he said.

There were no representatives from WA on the trip.

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