Australian cattle prices reached record levels this week.
Australian cattle prices reached record levels this week. Contributed

Farmers have deal jitters

WHILE North Burnett producers describe the new free trade agreement secured with China as a positive step, they still have many questions left unanswered.

Early details of the report show 85% of Australia's exports to China will leave tarrif free, and this will rise to 93% in four years.

But while local industries are happy to see tariffs reduced, they are unsure how they will fill supply expectations that will follow.

"It's difficult to see us increasing supply. Everybody is already exporting everything they can, because of the time fruit takes to grow," Gayndah Fruit Growers Association secretary Judy Shepherd said.

China has agreed to eliminate the 11% tariff on oranges and 12% tariff on mandarins within eight years.

"We are a bit disappointed it's going to take twice as long (to eliminate these tariffs) as other horticulture exports," Mrs Shepherd said.

"What would actually be the most helpful thing for growers right now is for the Australian dollar to come down."

Cattle producers will have to wait longer for the FTA to come into effect, with the 12-25% tariff on Australian beef set to be removed in nine years, although the 10% tariff on live cattle will be gone in four.

"Some people will be loving it, but there could be lots against it as well," Monto farmer Kacey Sanderson said.

"The deal looks better for live exports, but how will the local meatworks fare if that happens? There could be local jobs lost (at the meatworks) if more people start live exporting."

But another cattle farmer, Becky Wilson, believes the new agreement will lead to more competition in the beef industry, and that can only be a good thing for producers.

"If you've got more cattle going overseas, then local meatworks will have to get more competitive. And with more of our Australian cattle going overseas you will also see more competition globally," she said.

"I hope this puts pressure for live export out of Port Alma to get going. That would be sensational for central Queensland producers, just because of the higher competition."

Monto dairy farmer Sue Ison was happy to see a bit of hope for Queensland dairy producers.

"It's a positive step, we don't know just yet if it will give a better return. But we are happy with what we've got, at least something is up running now," she said.

"Dairy was a good industry in Queensland 14 years ago. It's been downhill from there, but hopefully this is the turning point."

Full details of the agreement are yet to be made public and the signing of the declaration of intent on Monday marks the official end of talks, before the final terms of the agreement are released.

China is Australia's largest trading partner.

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