AUSTRALIAN horticulture exporters are bracing for $19 million in additional costs when strict new security measures are rolled out across the nation’s airports next year.
In the wake of a foiled terrorist plot to blow up an aircraft in Sydney last year, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the security boost for all Australian airports.
It comes after the US introduced similar security procedures mid-last year. The new air cargo examination requirements will see every piece of airfreight either physically examined or screened by technology for explosives and drugs from March 1 next year.
Australia exports more than 87,000 tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables annually by aeroplane, making up about 15 per cent of all airfreighted goods.
Australian Horticultural Exporters’ and Importers’ Association chief executive Dominic Jenkin has estimated the measure will cost about $0.22/kg, “representing an additional cost of more than $19 million a year”.
“And the true cost to the economy is likely to eclipse this amount,” Mr Jenkin said.
Vegetables made up a significant portion of Australian exports by plane in 2017-18, followed by melons, summer fruit, grapes and mangoes.
Mr Jenkin said the horticultural exporting industry was disappointed there was so little consultation about how the security measures would be applied to fresh produce. “We see the sector as a significant stakeholder in the air cargo community, also one with challenges — low margins, high volumes — the little things can make a big effect,” he said.
The AHEIA calculated it would cost the nation’s vegetable industry $4 million a year in screening fees.
An AusVeg spokesman said while the importance of a safe and secure supply chain was acknowledged, “it is crucial such measures do not compromise the viability and quality of vegetable exports”.
Australian Mango Industry Association chief executive Robert Gray said aside from the US, Australia would be one of the few countries with such strict security measures in place for airfreight exports.
“We’re going to be encumbered by an added process our competitors won’t have to endure,” Mr Gray said.
AHEIA chairman and Brisbane exporter Joseph Saina said the issue for the horticulture industry was the low value of the goods.
“Vegetables will be the biggest losers,” Mr Saina said.
ALEXANDRA LASKIE, The Weekly Times
July 11, 2018