Region's chickpea growers hit with $72m shortfall

DARLING DOWNS growers are reeling after India imposed a 30 per cent tariff on Australian chickpeas, a move that could cost the local industry $72 million.

The news out of Australia's major chickpea market left some growers questioning whether they will even plant seeds in 2018.

Chickpea exports brought $240 million into the Darling Downs economy in 2017.

India's effective immediately tariff could, as a result, leave our region's growers with a $72 million hole in their bottom line.

Cecil Plains farmer Graham Clapham has been farming chickpeas for more than 30 years.

Graham Clapham, chickpea grower on his farm at Cecil Plains. Sunday, 21 Dec, 2017.
Graham Clapham, chickpea grower on his farm at Cecil Plains. Sunday, 21 Dec, 2017. Nev Madsen

While he's seen his fair share of ups and downs in that time, he was fairly frank in his assessment of the latest development.

"You don't have to be Einstein to work out that it's going to decrease the value for us," he said.

"Obviously it means at least a 30% reduction in the price available to Australian chickpea growers and it could be even more than that."

The chickpea market in the past three years has been a valuable one to the Queensland economy.

Since 2011, the value of Australian chickpeas exported to India has increased 995%.

Pulse Australia Industry Development Agronomist Paul McIntosh
Pulse Australia Industry Development Agronomist Paul McIntosh

While a dry season meant the 2017 crop yielded fewer chickpeas than expected, industry experts are now assessing what another blow will mean for the market.

"It has come out of the blue," Pulse Australia Industry Development Agronomist Paul McIntosh said.

"Here we are looking down the gun barrel now.

"We never planned for it at all because this is something the Indian Government dreamed up, and you could question whether the government should get involved in free trade and enterprise."

The tariff was brought in by the Indian Government to safeguard its own chickpea industry and scrap an over-reliance on overseas imports.

Whatever the case may be, Mr Clapham is preparing for another challenging year with his crops.

"Everything you could see go wrong in farming has gone wrong this year," Mr Clapham said.

"That's the reality of the market.

"As soon as there's a shortage in India and they need to import chickpeas to feed the people, I think you will see the tariff disappear. But of course that's all out of our control."

Topics:  chickpeas farming india news tariff toowoomba

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