Mr PASIN (Barker) (12:40): The forest industry is vitally important to the south-east of South Australia. As part of the agribusiness sector forestry contributes $1.8 billion to the South Australian economy and employs directly and indirectly some 22,000 people. In my electorate of Barker softwood and hardwood plantations, sawmills, and paper, tissue and particleboard mills employ over 5,000 people directly and 8,000 indirectly. The forestry sector is enjoying some of the best conditions in its history with an ABARES report showing that the volume and value of logs harvested reached record levels in 2015-16. Log harvests exceeded 30 million cubic metres and were valued at over $2.3 billion. Australia’s softwood plantations, which make up the majority of the forest task in my electorate, had a record harvest reaching 16.3 million cubic metres. This growth is due in part to strong export demand for our products, in particular woodchips and round wood logs. Export of these products contributed to an overall rise of 7.8 per cent in the first quarter of this year. ABARES reports that for the September and December quarters in 2016 growth in demand for Australia’s sustainably managed timber and wood products resulted in a record harvest of softwood. Demand for wood fibre in the Asia-Pacific region continues to expand, creating huge potential for our sustainably managed forest industries. Australia is well placed to take advantage of this demand for wood fibre.
There is no question that livestock industries, specifically beef and sheep, are experiencing extraordinary growth, which is great news for my electorate of Barker. Relief from the drought and high prices, in part due to this government’s three free trade agreements with the Asia Pacific, are providing significant opportunities for cattle and sheep producers. These critical trade deals are one of the driving forces behind latest forecasts that in 2016-17 Australia’s agricultural production as a whole will surpass $60 billion for the first time ever. For example, a cattle farmer’s cash income in southern Australia over the past two years have been the highest recorded in over 40 years. Cash income for sheep operators is expected to rise and increase to an average of $133,000 per farm this financial year, which is around 70 per cent above the average over the past 10 years.
The volume of beef and sheep meat products exported is projected to rise from a whopping 1.36 million tonnes to 1.52 million tonnes over the next five years. Export earnings for livestock and livestock products are forecast to rise to $22.2 billion off a level of $20.9 billion. Farmers in my electorate of Barker are in pole position to capitalise on a growing middle class in Asia and their increasing demand for the high-quality goods and services that our region has to offer.
Australia’s food and wine industry is experiencing exciting growth, which is great news for my electorate also, which produces some of the highest quality food and wine products anywhere in this nation. Export figures show that in my home state of South Australia food and wine exports increased by $6 million in 2015-16, reaching $5.22 billion.
Horticulture is one of our most valuable and important industries. It is Australia’s third-largest agricultural industry valued at $9.13 billion and employs around 57,000 Australians across this great nation. This government’s free trade agreements are supporting this important industry. China has now become Australia’s largest market for agriculture, food and fishery exports, being worth almost $10 billion in 2015. Export of oranges, for example, are also up more than 56 per cent to $52 million into China.
Horticulture exports to Korea have also grown substantially. In the first year of the Korean free trade agreement exports of potatoes for chipping have more than doubled to over $13 million following tariffs being slashed from 30 per cent to 12 per cent, and they were slashed even further to six per cent beginning at the start of this year.
In addition, we have gained technical market access for new commodities into China and Korea. Australia sent its first shipment of nectarines to China in November 2016, and we have now seen over 150 tonnes of the fruit exported to China. Blood Oranges are now being exported in to Korea under new technical market access agreements.
My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister. What measures in the budget will help continue economic growth for the livestock, forestry and horticultural industries in my electorate of Barker?