MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — The Australian grain industry on Aug. 7 said it welcomed China’s announcement over the weekend that it was lifting its tariff on Australian barley.

An 80% duty had been in place since June 2020. China said the tariff was due to Australia “dumping” barley, meaning its exports were priced lower than China’s domestic supply. However, Australia’s hardline stance on China’s role regarding the origins of the global COVID-19 pandemic was also reportedly a factor.

Pat O’Shannassy, chief executive officer of Grain Trade Australia (GTA), said China’s Ministry of Commerce determined that due to a change in industry circumstances that lifting the anti-dumping and countervailing duties would be in the public interest. 

“This announcement is an important step forward in resuming the strong and mutually beneficial relationship between China’s and Australia’s barley industries,” O’Shannassy said. “Our view has always been that resolving the barley dispute is in the beneficial interests of both China and Australia, and respective industries.”

Prior to the tariff being imposed, Australia was by far the largest supplier of barley to China.

“China is historically a very important export market for barley from Australia over many decades, with very strong customer relationships and considerable cooperation between industry partners in plant breeding and technical support to meet China’s needs,” O’Shannassy said. “Our barley exports to China peaked at 6.3 million tonnes in 2016-17 before falling to negligible levels once the duties were imposed in 2020, so we very much hope this decision will enable our trade relationships and exports resume.”

After the tariff was imposed, barley prices subsequently collapsed, causing Australian growers to cut production in favor of canola and milling wheat.  Prices slowly recovered as new markets opened for Australian barley.

What remains a problem for Australian barley growers is that a ban imports from Australia’s largest grain exporter, CBH Group, is still in place. China blocked CBH grain imports in September 2020 after it claimed customs found pests in a shipment of barley.