FARMER SPEAKS UP: The massive tariff no one is talking about
SOUTHERN Downs farmers say there's a bigger tariff we should be talking about, but the media have turned a blind eye amid discussions over Donald Trump's proposed 25 percent tariff on imported steel.
While Trump's tariff threats saturate news headlines, Queensland farmers have just been smashed with a 60 per cent tariff on imported chickpeas imposed by Indian officials on March 1.
Tannymorrel chickpea grower Scott Petersen said the coverage of the two issues seemed imbalanced, especially considering the value of the Indian chickpea market far outweighed that of US steel in 2017.
Trump's proposed tariff is feared to injure the $400 million steel export market.
But family business partner Rod Petersen said the $1.1 billion chickpea market was killed "stone dead" when a 30 per cent chickpea tariff was first imposed in January this year.
"Why is there all this focus on an industry only worth 400 million when the same thing happened to a 1.1 billion industry?" Scott said.
"There seems to be zero focus on an industry worth double the value."
Scott said the price of chickpeas dropped $20 per tonne in the last two days since Indian officials hiked a 30 per cent tariff on imported chickpeas up to 60 per cent overnight.
Rod said it marked the end of a 'golden era' for chickpea growers in 2017, when demand from India sent prices sky-rocketing to around $1000 per tonne.
"It has probably been too good to be true the last two years," Rod said.
"Most people in the industry knew those prices weren't going to last, so we've come back to earth to a certain extent."
The sudden tariff increase has come despite Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud's attempts to strike a better relationship with Indian officials.
Mr Littleproud visited India in January after the original tariff came into play, negotiating to gain a better line of sight for farmers when market changes came into play.
But Rod said this was just the way the Indian officials "seemed to work".
"The Indians have a habit of playing things very close to their chest," he said.
Fluctuations in the industry have been hard on Rod and Scott of Petersen Grains.
"We sold half of our crop to Bangladesh when (prices) spiked a little bit a month ago," Rod said.
"We wish we'd have sold the rest of it because it has dropped quite substantially since then."
Scott and Rod both agreed the state of the market could deter them from planting chickpeas in the future.
But although the markets have been messy, it's hard to get a farmer down when it's been raining three days straight.
"The rain has been magic now, we've been waiting a long time but it has been very good rain and it's worth a lot of dollars to the agricultural industry," Rod said.