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Tuesday, 15 October 2002
Page: 5213


Senator O'Brien asked the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, upon notice, on 24 June 2002:

(1) What was the total amount, in Australian dollars, spent by the Australian agricultural sector on all fertilizers for domestic use for each of the past five financial years.

(2) For each of the past five financial years, what percentage of all fertilizers used by the Australian agricultural sector for domestic use were imported, both in terms of metric tonnage and value in Australian dollars.

(3) For each of the past 5 financial years, including the current year, how many shipments have been received where the importation documentation describes the cargo as being at least in part fertilizer from China.

(4) For each year of the period specified in (3), what has been the total amount in metric tonnes of shipments where the importation documentation describes the cargo as being at least in part fertilizer from China.

(5) Which Australian agricultural industries are users of fertilizers imported from China.

(6) Is it the case that in late April or early May 2002, Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) officials impounded two containers of material imported from China and found that it was hazardous waste.

(7) Where and when did this impoundment occur.

(8) Specifically what type of fertilizer did the documentation that accompanied the shipment describe it as.

(9) From where else does Australia import fertilizer so described.

(10) Which Australian agricultural industries are users of imported fertilizers so described.

(11) Since May 2002, what meetings has the Minister had with state ministers on the issue of hazardous waste being imported to Australia under documentation describing it as a type of fertilizer.

(12) When and where were these meetings held.

(13) Who attended each meeting.

(14) What was discussed at these meetings.

(15) When is the next round of scheduled meetings with state ministers on the issue of hazardous waste being imported to Australia under documentation describing it as a type of fertilizer.

(16) What are the next planned steps, including target dates, for the department in relation to addressing the issue of hazardous waste being imported to Australia under documentation describing it as a type of fertilizer.

(17) For each of the past five financial years, including the current year, what has been the detection rate of such shipments by AQIS, in terms of metric tonnes intercepted by AQIS as against the total amount of such shipments in metric tonnes AQIS estimates has been shipped to Australia.

(18) For each of the next 5 financial years what is the target rate for detection by AQIS of such imports, in terms of metric tonnes to be intercepted by AQIS as against the total amount in metric tonnes AQIS estimates will be shipped to Australia.


Senator Ian Macdonald (Minister for Forestry and Conservation) —The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) Approximately $2 billion is spent by the Australian agricultural sector annually on fertilizers for domestic use. The Fertilizer Industry Federation of Australia estimates the value of domestic sales of fertilizer for each of the past 5 years as:

1996-1997

$1,852 million

1997-1998

$2,080 million

1998-1999

$1,969 million

1999-2000

$2,018 million

2000-2001

$2,136 million

(2) The Fertilizer Industry Federation of Australia provided the following information for 1999. Information for other years was unavailable.

In terms of metric tonnage, in 1999, imported fertilizers accounted for approximately 76% of nitrogen, 75% of phosphorus and 100% of potassium nutrient requirements annually. In addition, the 25 % of phosphorous fertilizer manufactured in Australia was derived from imported phosphate rock.

Since 1999, production of ammonium phosphates has commenced near Mt Isa in Queensland and this domestic production accounted for an estimated 20% of phosphate and 6% of nitrogen used in 2001-2002.

In terms of value in Australian dollars, over the past five years imported fertilizers have accounted for an estimated 45% of annual expenditure on fertilizers in Australia.

(3) The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) inspects shipments of cargo to Australia on quarantine grounds. According to AQIS records, over the last five years, China has exported 239 consignments of product identified as fertilizer in the documentation supplied to the Australian Customs Service (ACS) as a part of the ACS import process. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports official statistics on the importation of fertilizer, based on data collected by ACS.

Following is the AQIS breakdown of shipments over the past five years:

1997-1998

15 shipments

1998-1999

34 shipments

1999-2000

42 shipments

2000-2001

60 shipments

2001-2002

88 shipments

However, these statistics may not provide a full picture of fertilizer shipments from China or from other overseas sources. The collection of this data depends on the reporting of ACS codes in the documentation associated with the ACS import process. While some codes may relate to a fertilizer product, chemical commodities which may be used as fertilizer ingredients may not be identified as fertilizer.

(4) See the response to question 3. Again drawing upon AQIS records, approximately 110,030 metric tonne of product identified as fertilizer was imported from China over the past five years, broken down as follows:

1997-1998

4,206.5 tonnes

1998-2000

3,358.6 tonnes

1999-2001

3,144 tonnes

2000-2002

50,340 tonnes

2001-2002

48,980 tonnes

(5) These fertilizers are used across most Australian agricultural industries.

(6) No. Environment Australia is responsible for the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989 which governs the importation of hazardous waste.

(7) The impoundment referred to in question 6 did not occur.

(8) The impoundment referred to in question 6 did not occur.

(9) Most major Australian fertilizer manufacturers and importers, which account for over 95% of the mineral fertilizers used in Australia, import zinc and manganese sulphate from China. While information on other sources of these nutrients is not readily available, Australia sources fertilizer from a large number of countries, including:

Algeria, Argentina, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium-Luxembourg, Canada, Peoples Republic of China, Chile, Christmas Islands, Egypt, Arab Republic, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Republic of Singapore, South Africa, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, United Kingdom, United States of America and Venezuala.

(10) See the response to question 5.

(11) None.

(12) This question should be referred to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage.

(13) This question should be referred to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage.

(14) This question should be referred to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage.

(15) This question should be referred to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage.

(16) Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry - Australia (AFFA) is leading a whole-of-government approach to harmonising State/Territory fertilizer regulations and labelling requirements with respect to contaminants in inorganic fertiliser, including those which may be derived from hazardous waste. The Fertilizer Working Group, chaired by AFFA and comprising Environment Australia, fertiliser industry and State/Territory Agriculture Department representatives, has been established and has begun work on the development of a national domestic standard for contaminants in inorganic fertilizer.

(17) None. See the response to question 6.

(18) None. See the response to question 6.