Trump trade war overshadows plight of Australia's chickpea farmers

8499716 16x9 large - Trump trade war overshadows plight of Australia's chickpea farmers

Donald Trump’s threat to raise tariffs on Australian steel has overshadowed the plight of the nation’s chickpea farmers who have been effectively shut out of one of their biggest export markets.

As of March 1, the tariff on chickpeas going to India stands at 60 per cent, sending the lucrative industry into crisis.

“India is the largest consumer, producer and importer of pulses in the world. And chickpeas are a sizeable portion of that,” said Stefan Vogel, global strategist for grains and oilseeds at RaboResearch Food and Agribusiness.

Dealing with two record-growing seasons and a continuation of large imports, Mr Vogel said the Indian government tried to support its local growers.

A booming industry in crisis

According to industry figures, the value of Australian chickpea exports to India in 2016/17 were $1.14 billion.

Comparatively, the US accounts for about 0.8 per cent of Australia’s steel exports and about 1.5 per cent of aluminium exports.

Those are industries worth about $545 million to Australia’s economy.

Backing Australia’s farmers, the Federal Government has tried to help its chickpea growers.

One of the first jobs of new Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud was a trip to India to discuss the high tariffs.

But compared to prime ministerial phone calls and the assistance of golfer Greg Norman in nullifying US steel tariffs — it has been a quieter response.

“It seems there is a higher degree of influence from what’s going on in America than what’s really happening at the coal face for Australian [chickpea] growers,” said the chairperson of Grain Producers Australia, Andrew Weidemann.

Thousands of Australian growers impacted

The constant changing of tariff prices in India is wearing thin for Australian growers.

Cam Parker, who farms near Boort in north-central Victoria, just wants certainty in the market so he knows what he should be planting for the next season.

“As a seasonal grower of pulses, the number one thing we look for is stability in the market,” he said.

“Whether it’s a case of there is being tariff or not, it is all about that stability.”

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