Sunday, 23 November 2014

Learning from Australia’s experience

Australia intends to facilitate Pakistan by reducing tariffs on the import of textiles from next year. The maximum tariff would be 5pc.
Peter Heyward, Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan, stated this on November 10 while addressing the fourth annual dinner of Pakistan-Australia Business Forum. This step, he said, would also help Pakistan balance its trade, which is in favour of Australia.
However, the cut in tariff would hardly be a special favour to Pakistan for under the Australian government policy adopted a decade ago the tariffs for import of textiles and clothing for 2005, 2010, 2015 were to be slashed and re-fixed at 17.5pc, 10pc and 5pc respectively.
So, from January 1, tariff on all textile imports into Australia will be 5pc. Regarding domestic industry, most textile manufacturing by Australian companies is now done in China whose goods of all kinds also feature the country’s shopping malls. Until mid-1980s, when trade liberalisation began, Australia had a large textile industry but it has been on decline since then.
The two-way trade between the two countries in 2012 was $879 million. Currently, Australian exports to Pakistan consist primarily of food products, coal and cotton. Australia’s major imports from Pakistan are textiles and rice. A bilateral trade agreement has been in force since July 12, 1990 and a joint trade committee, under this agreement, met in Pakistan in June 2013.

In terms of the highest value of production, cattle remains ahead of wheat, dairy, vegetables, fruit and nuts and before lamb meat and wool

On October 31, a delegation of Australian-Pakistan Agricultural Sector Linkage Programme (ASLP) launched four years ago to help farmers was in Pakistan and met the Vice Chancellor of University of Agriculture, Faisalabad and had detailed discussion on cooperation in agriculture. One of the objectives of the programme is to improve the livelihood systems in rural areas.
Dr Sandra Mustapha, its leader, informed the meeting that under ASLP’s second phase, work on different commodities such as mango, dairy and citrus fruit has been concluded. What Pakistani farmers needed, she said, was knowledge about latest agricultural practices.
Its third phase will focus on agricultural productivity and dairy sector. The county can earn much foreign exchange by giving due attention to cheese production. The vice-chancellor said that a Dairy Technology Institute was being established at the UAF for producing trained manpower.
Pakistani farmers can benefit from Australia’s experience in raising livestock industry to greater heights. Today, Australia is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of cattle and also the world’s largest exporter of beef. More than two thirds of its beef production is exported to approximately 100 countries around the world.
Agriculture and its closely related sectors earn $155bn a year for a 12pc share of GDP. Australian farmers own 135,997 farms, covering 61pc of the country’s landmass and having more than 40 cattle breeds. Despite global economic crisis of 2008 hitting major developed economies, global demand for Australian beef had kept growing significantly and total beef exports were worth $5.1bn (FOB) in 2012-13.
The old saying that Australia ‘rides on the sheep’s back’ has long ceased to describe its economy, or even its agriculture. With faster growth of mining, manufacturing, service industries and construction, agriculture’s share of the economy had declined in the last decades of the 20th century. By mid-1990s agriculture was contributing only three per cent to GDP, down from 15-20pc in the early 1950s.
However, like most industries, Australian agriculture also clinched major gains in productivity and output by turning to new technology and modern farm practices. Today, farms which employed hundreds of labourers at the turn of the 20th century are operated by a few persons with the help of sophisticated machinery and technology.
After growing strongly in the early 2000s, the total value of the domestic market has been relatively stable in recent years with approximately $6.6bn in sales per year. In terms of the highest value of production, cattle remains ahead of wheat, dairy, vegetables, fruit and nuts, before lamb meat and wool.
In Australia, genetically modified food products are available in plenty in the markets and shops but since they are mostly without any label, it is difficult for customers to identify them. One gets stunned to see unusually bigger size of GM fruits and vegetables — bananas, for instance, are nine inches long and brinjals are twice fat than non-GM vegetable. Usually, they are poor in taste and flavour.
Currently, the only genetically modified food crops produced in Australia are canola, soybean, corn and cotton, but a variety of other GM foods are imported and used as an ingredient in packaged foods. Foods where GM ingredients are considered highly refined are not required to be labelled as containing GM products. GM cotton is being grown commercially since 1996.
GM cotton seed oil is widely used for cooking. GM canola, modified for herbicide tolerance, was approved for commercial production in 2003. Canola oil is used in margarine-type spreads, dairy blends and as an ingredient in tinned and snack foods.
The writer is on a visit to Australia
Published in Dawn, Economic & Business

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