Free trade in to UK

A free-trade agreement between Australia and the UK will see local ricegrowers benefit from unprecedented access to a “high-value” market this harvest.

Local grower John Bradford said the free-market deal negotiated with the UK was ‘‘an exciting opportunity for us’’.

Mr Bradford is a board member of both SunRice and the Rice Marketing Board.

‘‘I believe the government has negotiated a good deal, that will present an opportunity for SunRice to leverage that market,’’ he said.

Mr Bradford also tipped China and the EU as potential targets for future FTA deals.

‘‘Both of those markets are willing to pay a premium for high quality product like ours,’’ he said.

Early last year — while acting on behalf of the Australian Rice Industry — SunRice made a submission to the Australian government seeking the ‘complete trade liberalisation for all Australian rice products exported to the UK’.

The organisation is NSW’s only international exporter of Australian rice, thanks to an exclusivity agreement with the Rice Marketing Board.

Despite consuming about 425,000 tonnes of rice per annum, the UK itself does not produce any rice product, due to its unsuitable climate.

SunRice claimed this would incentivise the arrangements, effectively arguing that Australian rice cannot compete with a domestic market that doesn’t exist, and thus should be exempt from duty fees.

Last month, an in-principle FTA agreement between the Australian Government and the UK, first penned in June 2021, was finalised.

The outcome was subsequently praised by the SunRice Group.

‘‘The SunRice Group has welcomed the finalisation of the final United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which will deliver a historic market access outcome for Australian rice exports,’’ SunRice said in a statement.

Under the terms of the new deal, Australian growers will see the removal of all tariff quotas, and quota arrangements, for short and medium grain rice varieties as of December 17, 2021.

For now, long grain varieties will observe a maximum quota of 1000 tonnes per year should it be eligible for the tariff free arrangements — anything exported over this tonnage will be taxed at the standard rate.

‘‘This outcome will deliver significant benefits to our Australian rice growers, who produce some of the highest-quality Japonica-style varieties in the world, and also the citizens of the United Kingdom who will now have greater access to SunRice’s loved branded products,” said SunRice CEO Rob Gordon.

The FTA agreement will, hypothetically, reduce costs for both producers and consumers of rice.

‘‘What this deal will deliver is another high-value market for our premium branded Australian rice products, which as we look to recover from the past two years of near-record low production provides cause for optimism for our growers,’’ Mr Gordon said.