Barley tax alarms farmers

Local farmers are feeling 'alarmed' at the introduction of 80 per cent tariffs on the barley market into China, announced by the Chinese government on Monday.

China alleged the product has been imported against trade rules, and imposed tariffs for five years after an investigation was launched in 2018 into the dumping of Australian-grown barley in the country.

The announcement also comes amid tensions between Australia and China as the commonwealth continues to push for an investigation into the COVID-19 virus.

Grain Producers SA chief executive officer Caroline Rhodes said growers in the state usually export 1.5 million tonnes of barley each year to the value of $300 million, with China the biggest market.

"Our growers - particularly those on the Yorke Peninsula and Eyre Peninsula - produce some of the highest-quality barley in the world and for that reason we are keen to see our strong trading relationship with Chinese maltsters and brewers continue," she said. GPSA estimate $500 million on the Australian market could be lost this year as a result of the tariff.

Ungarra Farmer Jamie Phillis, who runs a cropping program on 1700 hectares of land (4200 acres), said he pulled back his barley seeding program as much as possible after the announcement was made, but a lot of it was already in the ground.

He has sown about 450 hectares (1100 acres) compared to his original plans for 500 hectares (1200 acres) of barley, but said other farmers had larger barley programs already sown.

"In my farming scenario, barley doesn't stack up quite as favourably as wheat because it's always got that $40 or $50 a tonne less price and it doesn't always yield that much greater," he said.

"I'm concerned, I don't like to see those prices, such a large gap of nearly $100 between wheat and barley - that's alarming.

"Basically that means it may not meet the cost of production if the tariffs come through as heavy as they say.

"They're saying that (the tariff) is anti-dumping, which I struggle to understand how they can say that when we've still got a domestic market that's of similar value...I think it's unfair that they've used this against what would seemingly be a genuine inquiry into the coronavirus, unrelated to barley.

"The two definitely aren't linked at all but they've obviously grabbed one and tried to play that off against the other."

Mr Phillis said it had put a bit of a "dampener" on the good start to the year.

"I don't think it's fair that the industry has been brought into this power play but I'm hoping, that's the optimist in me, that time will sort it out between now and October," he said.