West Australian barley growers are notching up significant wins to offset the pain of China’s import suspension, securing an entirely new market and resuming trade with another.
Perth-based CBH Group reported in September the Asian superpower had suspended barley imports from the grain growers’ cooperative, accusing it of excessive weed seeds in shipments, a claim CBH rejects.
It came after China imposed a whopping 80.5 per cent tariff on Australian barley after anti-dumping investigations.
Including outright bans, China also targeted Australian wine, beef and coal, and left live lobsters languishing while awaiting customs inspections.
Tensions mounted after Australia banned China’s Huawei from its 5G network and joined international calls for a probe into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The acrimony hasn’t been a one-way street, with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg blocking several planned Chinese investments, citing national security grounds.
The latest was last week when he scuppered a proposed takeover of major building contractor Probuild.
There’s now some light at the end of the tunnel for barley growers, though, with CBH Group announcing it had exported its first malt barley shipment to a new destination — Mexico — and saying doors had reopened in Saudi Arabia.
On Sunday, 35,000 tonnes of WA-grown malting barley was shipped to Mexico and is believed to be the first ever shipment of the commodity from Australia to the central American nation.
CBH chief marketing and trading officer Jason Craig said efforts to develop new markets for WA barley were proving successful.
“While it is early days, this shipment to Mexico signals a potential new market for malting barley however this will need to be developed over time,” Mr Craig said.
He also said demand for Australian feed barley from Saudi Arabia was set to jump from almost nothing in 2019-20 to more than two million tonnes this year.
“Saudi is reopening as an export destination for Australian feed barley, which has become very price competitive compared to barley from alternative origins, such as Russia and the Ukraine that have dominated exports to the country for the past few years,” Mr Craig said.
Saudi Arabia is the second largest barley importer in the world, behind China.
Meanwhile, Australian feed barley exports to Thailand and Vietnam are forecast to double this financial year, CBH says.
Mr Craig said WA barley growers had delivered a remarkable 2020-21 crop.