China free trade deal to directly benefit Northern Rivers

CHINA could walk away from a planned Free Trade Agreement if the deal isn't signed off by Christmas, Federal Agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce has warned.

Speaking at the Casino Meat Works today between meetings with local food exporters about the deal, Mr Joyce said any delay on the deal would only hurt the Northern Rivers' economic future.

"You don't go to your biggest customer and say 'I've decided not to let you into my shop anymore'," Mr Joyce said.

"That would be a very dopey thing to do.

"The ambassador from China said the other day 'we've offered you the best deal in town and we'll take it as a slap in the face (if the deal is rejected)'."

He said the deal would particularly benefit the Northern Rivers, which exports 70% of its agricultural products overseas.

The deal would benefit macadamia farmers, breed and dairy graziers, blueberry growers and other local primary producers with a hand in the export market.

The Agriculture Minister even supposed the deal would be good for local coffee shops, such was the cash injection it would provide.

Mr Joyce is meeting with representatives from local beef jerky exporter New World Foods, and Richmond Dairies, to discuss the deal further.

He also met with representatives of the Northern Co-operative Meat Company to learn more about their successful co-operative model of ownership and how it could be rolled out to other regions.

Page MP Kevin Hogan has been asked to prepare a white paper on the subject.

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