Australia’s $160m hay exports to China under threat as permits lapse

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Australian hay growers could be the next major industry frozen out by China, with Canberra-Beijing relations yet to thaw since a year-long diplomatic spat over the origins of the coronavirus.Australia’s hay exports to China, valued at $160 million annually, have practically ground to a halt this year, as dozens of crucial export permits which lapsed two months ago are still to be renewed by Beijing.With China buying about one-third of the 1.2 million tonnes of hay that Australia exports across the world each year, the pause in trade is hurting.

When it’s business as usual, Australia has 28 hay exporting companies with permits who are able to ship bales of hay to China.But on February 28, 25 of those permits lapsed.Now just three smaller operators whose licenses are still valid are exporting to China, at least until their permits also expire.

Australian suppliers are trying not to panic, an insider whose export company represents growers told The insider wished to remain anonymous.But, if the permits were left dead in the water, he acknowledged the industry faced taking a substantial hit.”China is a big player,” the insider said.He said Australian exporters were currently framing the problem as an administrative issue, not some kind of ongoing ban or blockade.”At the moment China has not re-registered a number of permits, it could just be a backlog.”The situation was “not necessarily uncommon,” he said, but added “we have found adding oxygen to the discussion is not always helpful.”


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