Citrus boss says ag department should tighten belt
THE CEO of Citrus Australia has told North Burnett fruitgrowers that the organisation could stomach cost-reflective export certification if the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries tightened its budget.
Speaking at the Queensland Post-Season Regional Forum in Mundubbera, Nathan Hancock said his organisation had taken DAF to task following the release of its proposed fees and charges for export certification for the next four years.
Under the proposed changes, certain fees would increase by up to 276 per cent, although most were in the 30 – 60 per cent range.
“There’s a significant rise in most of the charges, there are one or two that have dropped but they are inconsequential and certainly don’t offset the increase in charges they’re proposing,” Mr Hancock told the room.
“We understand it has to be cost recovery, but our main gripe is, what’s driving the costs that are increasing?
“We point the finger squarely at the amount of auditing (DAF) do and the number of documents and procedures they’re putting in place that then they need to be maintained, updated and audited.
“It generates an admin bill that is getting out of control.
“They need to go back and look at how much auditing they’re doing, why they’re doing it, are they doing it for the sake of their own systems and what can we cut out of it as quickly as possible?
“We understand it’s got to be cost recovery but it shouldn’t be without some sort of tightening of their budgets.”
In a previous statement following the release of the proposed changes, Mr Hancock said it was important the State Government provided a detailed explanation of its costs because it has a monopoly on export certification.
He accused DAF of turning its consultation into a box-ticking exercise and delegating its responsibility to consult with affected businesses to industry associations like Citrus Australia.
One Mundubbera fruitgrower, who didn’t want to be named, said the proposal was a “disgrace”.
Bevan Young, owner of Sandbar Citrus at Gayndah, said producers were being smothered in red tape.
He “100 per cent” agreed the changes would impact his bottom line.
“It’s not good,” Mr Young said.
Consultation on the proposed changes is open until December 10, with changes expected to come into effect in 2020 – 21.
Citrus Australia encoouraged all concerned growers to submit responses.
Click here for more information and to have your say.