Indonesian exporters 'need to adapt to Australian standards'

Andi Haswidi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesian exporters to Australia may face difficulties in meeting that country's import requirements unless they keep abreast of the latest information.

The growing variety of products exported to Australia means that the Australian authorities have to keep updating their import regulations, says the chairman of the Indonesian Food and Beverage Business Association (GAPPMI), Thomas Dharmawan.

And for many Indonesian exporters, Thomas says, the latest Australian rules come as a surprise. This was mostly due to a lack of initiative in seeking information, as well as access problems, particularly as regards Australia's tight quarantine rules.

"Exporters should make use of their business associations, the chamber of commerce, the Indonesia-Australia Business Council, Austrade and the National Agency for Export Development (Nafed) to access the latest market information," he said Wednesday during a seminar on Australia's quarantine regime.

Thomas said that Indonesian exporters also needed to enhance their communications with Australian importers, while adding that importers should take responsibility for notifying exporters of new export requirements.

According to a Nafed report issued this month, misunderstandings over the requirements often forced the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) to slap holding orders (HO) on Indonesian products, mostly consisting of foodstuffs and beverages.

If the trend continues, Nafed says, it could eventually affect other Indonesian exports to Australia, such as timber, and forestry, agricultural and fisheries products.

Kusnowibowo, the economic affairs consul with the Indonesian Consulate General in Australia, said that the imposing of HOs on Indonesian food and beverage products was mostly the result of labeling issues.

Currently, there were 6 Indonesian products subject to HOs, which was lower than last year's record number of 9.

Kusnowibowo said there were no figures available as to the value of the products subjected to HOs.

"Many product labels fail to supply basic information, such as the importer's address and the ingredients. In addition, there are also issues concerning unidentified colorants, and product quality that is below Australian standards," he explained.

He said that frequent changes in the regulations were only to be expected considering the variety of products entering the Australian market, and the importance of health and safety requirements there.

However, the Australian government is always eager to cooperate and is working on measures to deal with the problem, he said, citing as an example a new regulation issued on Jan. 1 that shifts any sanctions to be imposed in connection with an HO onto the importer rather than the producer, as was the case before.

According to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), Indonesian food and beverage exports to Australia have been growing for the last five years, with processed food exports amounting to US$40.9 billion in 2003, $48.7 billion in 2004 and $55.6 billion in 2005.

Meanwhile, Indonesian exports of agricultural products to Australia stood at $1.98 billion in 2003, $2 billion in 2004 and $2.9 billion in 2005.
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