Trade barriers impacting Australian horticulture

Non-tariff measures (NTMs) are additional requirements that a country can introduce to ensure imported products are safe and healthy for consumers. This project delved into the complex world of NTMs in 13 international markets to better understand their impact on specific commodities in the Australian horticulture industry.

Market access is critical for the Australian horticulture industry. Australian growers export approximately $3 billion worth of horticultural commodities annually, accounting for about 25% of Australia’s total production.

Although there has been a general decrease over the last 10 years in tariffs that restrict trade, there has also been a steady emergence of non-tariff measures (NTMs), which can directly impact export markets.

What are non-tariff measures?

NTMs are requirements that countries apply to traded goods separate to ordinary customs tariffs. They are applied to ensure imported products are safe and healthy for consumers and protect countries from harmful pests and diseases that imported goods could introduce.

For Australian producers and exporters, NTMs are a normal part of doing business. NTMs can lead to benefits from both an import and export perspective, however export markets often experience a decrease in activity as compliance costs rise and exporting becomes less profitable.

About this project

To facilitate collaboration between industry and government in addressing NTMs that are unfair or overly costly barriers to trade, RMCG were engaged by Hort Innovation in 2021 to identify and understand the impact of NTMs applied to specific commodities and more broadly across the horticulture industry. We looked at 14 different horticultural commodities across 13 international markets.

To inform the review, data was collated via desktop research, analysis of trade and NTM data sources, and industry consultation.

For the Australian horticulture sectors reviewed, a total of 1,734 NTMs were identified across 13 importing countries. New Zealand imposes the highest number of NTMs (527) followed by Thailand (266), China (145) and South Korea (130).

The table grape, citrus and mango industries are subject to the highest number of NTMs. This is likely due to the fact that these commodities are potential hosts to a number of fruit flies (such as Queensland Fruit Fly and Mediterranean Fruit Fly), and that a number of protocol markets have been developed for these products.

The review identified a range of challenges and barriers associated with NTMs impacting on producers, supply chains and the various horticultural sectors. The impact of these on the Australian horticulture industry include:

  • Reduced competitiveness due to increased costs associated with treatment, packaging and certification
  • Reputational damage in key markets due to poor product quality as a result of fumigation treatments and held product at importing markets
  • Reduced appetite to export due to perceived risks associated with poor or inaccurate information and political tension
  • An inability to forward plan due to sudden changes in quotas
  • Lack of market access or rejection of product at importing country when Australian exporters are unable to meet maximum residue limits (MRLs) due to sudden changes in allowed limits or the imposition of limits dictated by supermarkets.


RMCG developed recommendations for those involved in the trade of horticultural products based on insights from the consultation process. These are detailed in the project summary available here.

Individual commodity reports

Individual reports were also developed for a range of commodities detailing the key NTMs of significance. These reports can be accessed below:

More information

For further information or to access a copy of the full report please contact Dr Kristen Stirling on 0488 908 416.

This project was managed by Hort Innovation and supported by funding from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. 


Dr Kristen Stirling

Dr Kristen Stirling


PhD., B.Ag.Sci.

Kristen is an experienced researcher and industry development specialist. She successfully combines project management skills and technical expertise to deliver projects in agriculture and water related industries. She enjoys working with landholders and large organizations to inform and clarify decision-making. Areas of expertise include strategic planning, stakeholder consultation and program evaluation.

Emily Tee

Emily Tee

Senior Consultant

B.Ag.Sci., Grad.Dip.App.Sci. (Hort), Dip.Bus.

Emily is a multi-skilled professional with experience in design, delivery and review of programs and projects in the environmental and agricultural sectors. She combines excellent strategic thinking skills with a proven ability to problem-solve and effectively communicate with colleagues and stakeholders. Emily has particular skills in relationship building and collaboration with individuals, teams and industry groups to lead and implement change and deliver on outcomes.

CJ Wilkens

CJ Wilkens


B.Sci (Biochemistry-Molecular Biology), M.Env.

CJ has a keen interest in the combination of production systems, sustainable land management, urban agriculture in peri-urban landscapes, agroforestry, and the intersection of technological innovation and NRM. He has specific detailed knowledge of soil science and horticulture as well as experience in lab and fieldwork in both disciplines. These skills primarily intersect and apply to sustainable land management, environmental impact assessment, and broader scientific analysis of natural systems.


Dr Anne-Maree Boland

Dr Anne-Maree Boland


PhD., B.Ag.Sci.

Anne-Maree has 25 years’ experience in dealing with natural resource and water management in agricultural industries. This has included research and development and consulting in the areas of sustainable management practices, water use efficiency, recycled water and environmental management systems. Anne-Maree has been a Non-Executive Director for GWRDC and IAL, is a Churchill Fellow and recipient of the University of Melbourne Chancellors Prize. She has extensive experience as a knowledge broker and establishing partnerships with diverse stakeholder groups including government, water and agricultural industries.

Tristan Wardley

Tristan Wardley


B.Ag.Sci. (Hons)

Tristan is an experienced economics consultant at RMCG. He has worked across the agriculture and horticulture industries and has experience in natural resource management. Tristan is experienced in business and financial planning and decision analysis.


He has a thorough understanding of business structural change, specialising in micro-economic investment and production decisions, with a particular interest and skill set in risk analysis. His experience within the agricultural industry through private and public forums has given him the opportunity to contribute to progressive agricultural research.


Tristan has a developed commercial, operational and strategic skill set, and a deep understanding of sustainable and profitable business models.  He has extensive experience in stakeholder engagement and understands the range of factors influencing a business owner’s needs, risks and aspirations.