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Friday analysis: Good plans for 2021 but China isn’t one of them

Photo: The Diamond Loupe

2021 seems to have got off to a reasonably good start with plans announced for a pellet plant on Kangaroo Island, a briquette plant at the Eden export facility and funding for Gippsland’s fire damaged road system.

But the China problem just won’t go away. Source: Bruce Mitchell

It’s China’s refusal to even answer the phone or reply to polite enquiries that must have those from the Federal Government who are seeking answers tearing their hair out in frustration.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said his department had formally written to Chinese authorities on two occasions seeking further information about detections of bark beetle and proposing a range of measures to give assurance that Australian log exports meet Chinese biosecurity requirements.

To date there has been no response from China.

AFPA CEO Ross Hampton was reported in The Australian as saying the industry had responded as far as it practically could on the bark beetle issue, and the ball was now in China’s court.

Clearly China has no intention hitting the ball back. Not for a while anyway.

It has been suggested China will simply let Australia swing for a while and then make some conciliatory gesture and reopen the doors to trade albeit on its terms. Make that reduced terms.

The China cash-cow has pretty much gone forever.

In the meantime, multiple options – countries – have been put forward as option trading partners for our timber.

At the top of the list is India, along with Malaysia and Vietnam.

But it is doubtful any, or all, of them would be interested in the quantities we have to offer.

And, of course, they would be offering fire sale prices.

But regardless of that, such deals take time to negotiate, and that’s something the Australian timber industry in so many ways doesn’t have.

To borrow a phrase from the early days of the pandemic, at least we are all in this together.