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Wednesday, 22 August 2001
Page: 30035

Mr ANDREN (7:48 PM) —I wish to draw the attention of the House to the answer provided by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to my question without notice yesterday in relation to the alleged dumping, mainly from China, of apple juice concentrate. I asked this question especially in light of the findings of a recent report, The Australian Apple Industry Squeeze, prepared for his department, which indicated that apple juice concentrate is indeed being dumped into the Australian market. This dumping is causing real economic harm to apple producers in Calare and other apple growing areas around the country.

I asked the minister to recommend a dumping inquiry to the relevant minister on behalf of the growers. In his answer, the minister—and I commend him for the attention he gave to his response—indicated that he had raised the issues with his colleague the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Ellison, and will continue to have discussions with him to see whether he may choose to use any discretionary powers he might have to launch such an inquiry.

This is not a new issue. On 22 June 2000 I asked the Minister for Trade what impact Chinese imports have had on the Australian apple industry. His reply was that the use of cheaper Chinese juice concentrates by processors forces second grade Australian apples which would otherwise be destined for processing onto the domestic fresh apple market, reducing buyer confidence and damaging consumer belief in the Australian product. This answer does not take into account the additional fact that those processors who choose to use only Australian apples can only do so at reduced prices in order to compete with the non-Australian pure product, which again hits the growers hardest.

The growers are the ones who are sustaining material injury as a result of imports of cheap Chinese juice concentrate. On behalf of growers, I urge the minister to launch an inquiry into the dumping of apple juice concentrate. Under the Customs Act, apple processors must make an antidumping application as they are the industry defined under the act as most affected by dumping. However, the vast majority of this sector are just not interested in pursuing an application; they are quite happy to use the imported product—should I say dumped product—and they have little or no loyalty to Australian producers. Just today we see the country's biggest fruit juice manufacturer, Berri Ltd, about to go to the Federal Court, facing claims that it has misled consumers in its product labelling. Berri promotes 11 of its products as containing Australian produce, but the ACCC alleges that the goods contain little or no Australian juice. Those affected by dumping, as the government pointed out last year, are the growers. The growers sustain the material injury that antidumping measures are meant to protect against, yet they are prevented from pursuing such measures by the narrow definition within the act.

In the US, a successful antidumping application was made against Chinese concentrated apple juice in July 1999. Their International Trade Commission agreed that the US apple industry was being economically injured by these below cost imports and imposed a 55 per cent tariff. The result of this, by March 2000, was increased prices for US growers and a greater volume of Chinese product seeking other dumping markets— surprise, surprise, Australia!

The volume of Chinese concentrate imported into Australia has increased markedly, from 922,000 litres in 1995 to over nine million litres in 1999. That is material injury. The Apple and Pear Growers Association appreciate the need to become more competitive, to improve export performance. On the one hand, the US, with its critical production mass, can easily mount and win an antidumping case, but our producers, supplying fresh fruit and juice markets simultaneously, are not big enough to match supermarket muscle domestically or to counter cheap juice imports. As the apple and pear growers tell us, the growers are being told to improve their productivity and export performance so that they can take on the world. The reality is that no-one is able to take the world price—that is, not without heavy subsidy or protection.

So my growers, with an all Australian product of both fruit and juice, are caught in a triple whammy, with the big local processors happy to exploit both dumped imports and the totally inadequate labelling laws as well as an unfair market dominated by three major supermarkets and a Customs Act that appears to rule them out of mounting any antidumping action to protect themselves.