THE peak body for rice growers has called for bio security protocols with China to be signed, to give Australian growers access to the lucrative market.
Rice growers Association of Australia executive director Andrew Bomm said a lack of bio security protocols meant exporting rice to China was at a stalemate.
Bio security protocols are agreements between two countries that outline the phytosanitary requirements of the goods being exported and includes a list of banned pest, weed and chemicals.
China is yet to respond to a submission from Australia, made in August 2012, regarding the protocols.
“We cannot get access to China because there is no bio security protocol for imports,” Mr Bomm said.
“Theoretically the holdup is with getting paperwork organised, but the decision is political.”
He said the importation of rice was a sensitive issue for all Asian countries because there was an important cultural aspect to rice growing.
“Governments are concerned that if their growers are not competitive then there’s social implications and political implications to that.
“But we would be exporting only tens of thousands of tonnes and they grow millions of tonnes of rice.”
Another frustration for the rice industry is that protocols for other significant export grains — wheat and barley — were finalised in April last year, while canola and sorghum protocols are under development.
Grain Trade Australia chief executive Geoff Honey said companies that exported grain to China were required to adhere to the industry management practice, which draws heavily on the Australian grain industry code of practice developed by GTA.
“We are the only grain exporting industry that has a code of practice — it’s a real selling point,” he said.
Grain Producers Australia president, Andrew Weidemann, said since the biosecurity protocols for wheat and barley were signed Australia had exported 4.4 million tonnes of barley to China.
“However, China is not in the market as a volume buyer at the moment because they have an internal protocol that states they should use their own stock first,” he said.
The Department of Agriculture confirmed Australia had provided a submission to China for the biosecurity protocols in August 2012 but was awaiting a response.
“The Department understands China is working on a number of grain protocols concurrently,” the statement said.
“The Chinese Government has progressed a number of other high priority grains issues during this time, and we continue to work together on trade and market access issues.”