WA bullish on barley

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Jenne BrammerCountryman
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Beverley farmer Duncan Young in one of his Spartacus barley fields.
Camera IconBeverley farmer Duncan Young in one of his Spartacus barley fields. Credit: Simon Santi

WA grain growers have no plans to dial back the State’s huge barley planting program when seeding cranks up next month, despite bracing themselves for hefty tariffs which could arise from China’s anti-dumping investigation against the Australian industry.

China is Australia’s largest barley export market and Australia is the largest supplier of barley to China, but a probe into alleged dumping by Australia in the Chinese market has created concerns that prices could fall.

Although the investigation could take from 12 to 18 months, the Chinese could impose preliminary tariffs of up to 56 per cent at any time on Australian barley.

The State’s grain farmers planted a record 1.6 million hectares to barley last year — almost a fifth of WA’s total grain plantings, according to the Grain Industry Association of WA. The value of WA barley sold to China last year is estimated at more than $1 billion.

Independent agronomist Mike Lamond said despite farmers being uncertain about prices, early indications are they will plant a similar amount of barley to last year. “Had this issue not arisen, we would have seen even more barley planted across WA, but this investigation has tempered that enthusiasm,” he said.

Australian Association of Agricultural Consultants WA president Tim Johnston said farmers’ decisions to plant big amounts of barley were underpinned by the cereal crop delivering higher yields than wheat.

He said there could be a late swing away from plantings if a tariff was imposed during seeding, as this would affect the price, but at this stage the investigation was not having a big impact on decision making.

“The anti-dumping investigation is seen as political and is not a big factor in farmers’ decisions,” he said, adding there was also strong local demand for Australian barley and other grains domestically, with record numbers of cattle in feedlots in the Eastern States, which provided an alternative market.

The investigation by the Chinese commerce ministry follows claims Australian barley was sold at a lower price than normal in the year to September 30.

The Australian grain industry last week issued a joint announcement about the ongoing investigation into the dumping of Australian barley, saying the potential outcome remained uncertain.

The statement said although the Australian grains industry was confident that dumping had not occurred, the likely outcome of the investigation is unknown.

Possible outcomes could include the imposition of provisional import measures such as securities or cash deposits on Australian barley exports to china. These measures have a similar impact as tariffs in that they artificially increase the price of Australian barley in China.

Australian exporters, industry bodies and government bodies provided extensive responses to China’s commerce ministry as part of the information.

The Australian grains industry is confident the claim of dumping, causing injury to China’s domestic barley industry was unsubstantiated, and the Australian grain industry operates in an open, commercial and competitive global market.

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