Australian farmers worried about escalating Chinese trade row

Barley grows in a field. Source: EPA

Farmers are worried about an escalation of a trade row between Australia and China spreading beyond beef and barley.

Farmers are concerned about an escalation in the trade frictions between Australia and China, fearing it may spread to other commodities beyond beef and barley.

China is threatening to slap a large tariff on its barley imports from Australia following an anti-dumping investigation, while it has blocked beef imports from four Australian abattoirs.

Such actions have come within weeks of Australia calling for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, sparking a furious response from China.

But National Farmers' Federation president Fiona Simpson is quick to point out the investigation into barley dumping has been in place for 18 months, while on beef she said it is a a technicality around labelling, something that has been an issue in the past.

"It is sometimes tricky to work through some of the differences and makes it harder when we can't just jump on a plane and talk to people face-to-face," she told the ABC on Saturday.

Even so, "farmers are worried".

"It's a big market, not just for beef and barley, but for a number of other commodities as well," she said.

Commodities like wool, cotton and seafood depend on the Chinese market.

"So I think it's concerning if these sorts of shock waves and threats do actually start to come," she said.

"And so we need to make sure that the government is continuing to invest, continuing to talk, continuing to work through these difficulties."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the push for an independent inquiry into the COVID-19 crisis is "completely unremarkable" and Australia will stand its ground.

But China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi has lashed out at foreign politicians for politicising the epidemic.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

Testing for coronavirus is now widely available across Australia. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

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