As the Australian federal government is focusing on the COVID-19 situation, new export fee price hikes have been put on hold. The Department of Agriculture had flagged July 1 for the introduction of new export costs for the horticulture industry. It would have seen an average increase of 44 per cent across all fees and levies, with some charges to increase by 277 per cent.
A Department of Agriculture spokesman said because industry consultation planned for March was unable to go ahead due to COVID-19 restrictions, “we no longer expect changes to the current charges from July 1, 2020. We are monitoring the situation and will provide an update […] once the next steps have been determined.”
The Department of Agriculture has been working on a new cost-recovery model for export certification services since 2015 after operating at a multimillion-dollar deficit for a number of years.
However prominent industry bodies, including the Australian Horticultural Exporters’ and Importers’ Association and AusVeg, have described the proposed model as a step too far, with grievances including an expanded cost recovery base – including $182,000 to subsidise a network of counsellors to assist during trade disruptions – and the disproportionate level of cost recovery comparative to other government departments.
If the proposed model was adopted, 48 per cent of the Department of Agriculture’s costs would be paid for by farmers and exporters, compared to the Department of Trade, where 10 per cent of its costs were funded by industry, or the Department of Industry and Science, where 15 per cent of its costs were paid for by industry.