Qld jobs lost as China delivers blow to export industry
A SIGNIFICANT Cairns export industry is the latest casualty of belligerent trade restrictions imposed by China.
The latest industry to be hit is the lucrative live coral trout export market, with China inexplicably refusing to renew a permit with the nation's biggest exporter, the Cairns-based Australian Reef Fish Trading Company (ARFTC).
It accounted for 70 per cent of coral trout exports last year, sending 40,000 tonnes in December alone.
ARFTC chief executive Barry Dunn admits "it's not great" and he's had to lay off half his staff - while 35 boats supplying the business are left in the lurch. "China is far and away our largest market and that has become unavailable, and there's serious disruption for the fishing fleet that supplies us," Mr Dunn said.
"We were aware of the risk and, until recently, we were confident we would not be affected - but we were wrong."
Wild caught coral trout is offered in premium restaurants in China, where its red colour is considered auspicious.
But Mr Dunn reckons China's loss could be Australia's gain and has a marketing plan to get Australians putting the delectable fish on the menu more often.
"I am conscious we have job losses and we are working really hard to get all those people back to work," Mr Dunn said.
"I am confident we have a magnificent product and our company has the capacity to meet local demand.
"The reality is the Australian market has not had the opportunity to have coral trout with so much exported - the message we are getting from restaurants is they want guaranteed consistency and volume, and we have a track record, and significant infrastructure in place, to deliver that," he said.
Chinese officials are disgruntled that the Australian government backed international calls for an investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 virus in Wuhan last year, with Australian agriculture bearing the brunt as produce is blocked from entry.
China accounts for almost 33 per cent of Australia's total exports, including iron ore, worth $116.79 billion in 2018-19.
Originally published as Far North jobs lost as China delivers blow to export industry