NOT OVER: Emu Vale farmer Les Kable said the industry is in big trouble following the tariff announcement.
NOT OVER: Emu Vale farmer Les Kable said the industry is in big trouble following the tariff announcement.

'It'll have a big impact': China imposes barley tariffs

Southern Downs barley producers worry the worst is yet to come as China's new trade tariffs leave the Australian grain market scrambling to find a new home.

Effective from yesterday, China has imposed a 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley imports following growing coronavirus investigation tensions between the two countries.

With Australia's barley exports to China bringing in $600 million in 2019, it was farmers such as Emu Vale's Les Kable who feared they would take the hit.

Mr Kable was waiting for a decent 60ml of rain to fall to plant barley this year, but is now grateful he hasn't taken the gamble yet, fearing a "huge loss" for the agricultural industry.

"I think its going to have a big impact on Australia growers," he said.

"Once you take that market out it has to go back to the domestic market and what will that mean for the price for our grain? It's a pretty serious issue."

The 70-year-old farmer who also runs sheep and cattle on his property said the growing international dispute would get only worse for farmers before it ended.

"It's don't think it's finished yet," he said.

"We have lambs going in there, sheep and cattle and now four abattoirs are in trouble with exports. We have got quite a few problems."

While Australia still heads its hands in other international opportunities, Mr Kable said farmers could find themselves in a more competitive market.

"We do put grain in Saudi Arabia but apparently America has a big crop this year," he said.

"Indonesia could be another good area because they millions that have to be fed from somewhere, but it will be interesting to see what will happen."

On the backs of a few dismal years of planting due to drought, Mr Kable said he'd hate to see the slim chance for producers to grow go out the window, thanks to the pandemic.

"This is ideal planting time for most in the Downs area," he said.

"But we need fair money to cover the costs of fuel and fertilisers and the cost of running a farm.

"At the moment, it just seems like another thing from one week to the next."

The news comes as Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management David Littleproud declared Australia was not in a trade war with China. 

"Everyone needs to take a deep breath, take a cold shower and understand that we produce the best food and fibre in the world and we have marketplaces that we'll be able to send our barley and other produce into other markets if our producers wish to do so," he said.