Overseas network

The role of overseas staff

The Department of Agriculture has more than thirty agricultural specialists working in Australian missions in key overseas markets. They work to develop and maintain markets for our agricultural exports, which account for 60% of Australian farm production.

A number of our overseas officers are based in our three key export markets – Southeast Asia, China and Japan. Together, these regions account for almost 50% of Australian exports.

The negotiations for access to overseas markets, including technical consultations about the importing nation’s biosecurity requirements, can sometimes take years to work through. Department of Agriculture’s overseas officers play a key role in this process.

Department of Agriculture agricultural specialists organise and lead discussions, respond to requests for information, and facilitate visits and inspections to progress market access requests. They work closely with industry, overseas authorities, and Department of Agriculture’s Canberra head office in the process.

Overseas agricultural specialists also play a significant role in rectifying any problems with Australian agricultural goods on entry to their foreign destinations.

You can read the latest news from our overseas officers by browsing the below stories.

View locations of overseas Department of Agriculture officers

Word map indicating locations of DAFF overseas staff: Paris, Brussels, Moscow, Rome, Dubai, New Delhi, Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo, Bangkok, Jakarta, Washington

Australian canola producers regain access to huge chinese market

Australian canola producers can look forward to new market opportunities in China with the resumption of bulk shipments of canola now underway.

Continue reading about canola market

The trade came to a halt in 2009 after China introduced emergency measures aimed at preventing the entry of Leptosphaeria Maculans (blackleg fungus). Unfortunately, Australia could not certify shipments as “free” of this fungus. 

The Department of Agriculture’s counsellor of Australia’s Embassy in Beijing, Mr Rob Williams, has worked closely with China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) over the last couple of years to resume the trade. 

In June 2013 the first bulk shipments since 2009 of Australian canola landed in China as part of a new joint research agreement between the two countries.

The joint research program required great technical detail to properly address all of China’s concerns. This included specific conditions that: canola can only be sourced from areas in Australia of low pest prevalence for blackleg; only 8 ports in non-canola producing provinces in China are to receive shipments; and the trade will be supported by a joint Australia-China research program into managing the fungus.

Since reaching the agreement Australia has already shipped $80 million worth of canola destined for the Chinese market. The commercial trade in canola to China is estimated to be around $300 million this year, representing a significant market access gain for Australian exporters.

Strengthening trade ties, even through unexpected opportunities

The department, through our overseas posts in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and New Delhi, and support from Canberra based staff, have seized an opportunity to enhance relationships with Thai, Malaysian and Sri Lankan Governments. Unusually, this opportunity came from a dairy product contamination issue that had the potential to significantly affect our local dairy exporters and our trade interests with these three countries.

Continue reading about trade ties

The department’s overseas posts responded quickly to the situation, providing timely and factual information to all three governments. Posts explained Australia’s animal health and food safety systems effectively, including our export inspection and certification systems that underpin the safety and integrity of our dairy exports. Our responsiveness and openness to all inquiries ensured that government officials remained confident in Australia’s dairy system. As such, the impact on trade was minimised and there were no market disruptions or closures.

The event also helped to reinforce our existing strong relationships with key officials dealing with dairy trade in these markets, relationships which are highly significant to our dairy exporters. Australia’s exported dairy products to Sri Lanka, Thailand and Malaysia in 2012–13 was valued at about $209 million.

Australia to lead international body for plant genetic resources

The department’s Minister-Counsellor in Rome, Matthew Worrell, has been elected as the chair of the governing body of the International Treaty of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

Continue reading about plant genetic resources

This marks the first time, since the United Nations adopted the treaty in 2001, that Australia will chair the chief governing body. The treaty, negotiated under the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, provides a framework for the conservation, sustainable use and exchange of plant genetic resources into a global pool to enable research, training and breeding of agricultural crops and to safeguard these resources for the future.

The treaty provides the opportunity for Australia to share and access plant genetic resources to assist in the development of new crop varieties that are better adapted to climate variability, pests, diseases and threats.

Mr Worrell currently represents Australia and the other countries of the South-West Pacific on the Treaty Bureau.  He will chair the governing body through to late 2015.

Japanese consumers continue to enjoy Australian slushy drink following consignment release

A consignment of dairy beverage mix by the iconic Australian ice-cream company Frosty Boy has made its way to Japanese KFC stores and consumers after initially being detained by Japanese authorities following a quality control problem with an earlier batch. The consignment, valued at approximately $100,000, was released following successful negotiations with Japanese officials by the Department of Agriculture’s Tokyo post, Canberra-based staff and the Queensland Department of Primary Industries.

Continue reading about Australian slushy drinks

All parties worked around the clock to resolve the issue in order to avoid an out-of-stock situation in Japanese KFC stores. Following two days of intensive negotiations, Japan’s Ministry of Health agreed to clear exports of Frosty Boy product to KFC Japan. It was the good relationship between the Japanese Ministry and the department’s overseas post that helped enable the quick clearance of the product, without any negative impacts to the company’s ongoing trade with Japan. Frosty Boy was incredibly appreciative and thanked everybody involved in resolving the issue given the importance of their substantial annual trade with Japan.

Aussie lamb, pork and goat meat return to Indian market

Over a decade’s work contributed to the reinstatement of lamb and processed meat market access to India, involving the Department of Agriculture, our counsellors based in New Delhi, and the Australian meat industry.

In 2001, India changed its import certification conditions for meat and meat products, and, as a result, Australia could no longer export these products there.

Continue reading about lamb and processed meat exports to India

In September 2012, the department reached an agreement with its equivalent agency in India, the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries (DAHD), again permitting Australian lamb, pork and goat meat exports to India.

Staff in Canberra and New Delhi worked with their overseas counterparts to have elements of Australian certification systems recognised in the final agreement. Australia’s animal health system, export inspection and certification system and residue monitoring system were all recognised. During the 11 year process, the department’s current agricultural counsellor based in India, Slava Zeman, and her predecessors were active in negotiating approval of the new export certificate and correctly understanding India’s approach to negotiations.

Former counsellor in New Delhi, Ian Mortimer, attributed the success reinstating market access to India to fostering good relations between the countries based on understanding and trust.

“It’s all about managing expectations and addressing the sensitivities between trading partners first and foremost.”

The negotiations culminated in a meeting between the department’s Food Division with DAHD officials in New Delhi in July 2012 where it was explained how Australia planned to meet India’s conditions.

The department then negotiated acceptance of the proposed agreement with local industry.

As a result, Australian lamb is now available in top Indian restaurants, hotels and some specialised retail chains. Although the Indian population is largely vegetarian, the number of non-vegetarians is still in the hundreds of millions.

Both industry and Austrade play an active role in developing markets for exporters in India. Meat and Livestock Australia have appointed an agent to India to assist. The New-Delhi based counsellor helps by interpreting India’s import requirements to local importers and Australian exporters.

The re-establishment of Australian lamb, pork and goat meat exports to India opens up another major export destination for local exporters alongside established markets including China and the US.