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Farmers and politicians have welcomed the historic China-Australia Free Trade Agreement announced by the Federal Government this week, saying it will help the local dairy industry grow into the future.

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester said he was confident the agreement would add billions to the national economy and “most importantly stimulate jobs and economic activity in Gippsland.”

“One of the key benefits of the agreement is the abolition of tariffs into China for Australia’s $13 billion dairy industry, phased out over the next 11 years,” Mr Chester said.

“In discussions with senior industry sources over the past five years, the biggest issue they have raised is market access to provide wider opportunities to sell their product.

“This assists with the fundamental issue of competitiveness and a wider market benefits farmers.

“The local dairy industry has been competing with New Zealand at a significant disadvantage and this FTA paves the way for Australian milk products to secure a foothold in the world’s largest and fastest growing dairy market.”

Mr Chester said the announcement underpinned the future of the dairy industry.

“Gippsland’s dairy industry is the highest value agribusiness industry and one of Australia’s leading dairy regions, producing around 30% of Victoria’s milk production and 20% of Australia’s dairy production,” he said.

“Our beef and sheep farmers will also benefit from the abolition of tariffs along with the horticultural sector.

“This is an outstanding agreement and I congratulate Trade Minister Andrew Robb on delivering the third major trade agreement in just over 12 months.”

Maffra farmer Iain Stewart, Chair of the Macalister Irrigation District Consultative Committee, said the FTA “will be good for the industry.”

“It will open up better trade opportunities and hopefully we can get better return back for the farmers in our area.”

“For the MID there will be opportunities for us to improve commodity prices and get better returns.”

The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) has called the FTA a “boon for Victorian farmers”.

VFF President Peter Tuohey said Australia’s FTA with China set the foundations for a century of growth and prosperity.

“It was Andrew Robb who listened to the farmers’ calls for an FTA that delivered for agriculture. Not only did Mr Robb listen, he kept at the job until he got the best deal he could across the line, and we thank him for his great work.”

Mr Tuohey said the VFF’s dairy arm – the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria – had been at the forefront of the push to get an effective FTA across the line.

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