In an unusual demand aimed at benefiting Australia’s “marginalised” aboriginal population, a Western Australia-based brewery has sought the inclusion of its unique craft beer, made with native botanicals obtained from the indigenous people, in the India-Australia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement being negotiated.

The proposal made to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade by Spinifex Breweries, which credits itself with development of the world’s first native infused craft beer range, has been supported by a number of Australian industry bodies.

“We are of the view that this (Spinifex’s proposal) will provide the opportunity to support the sustainability of existing and emerging Australian First Nations (aboriginals) agri-businesses internationally.  With the expanding demand for Australian food and beverages in India we believe that by establishing initially a small footprint within the Indian craft beer market Spinifex Brewery will be able to influence an increased demand for native Australian bush food botanical ingredients,” according to a support note by the Australia India Business Council submitted to the government.

India imposes stiff import duties on alcohol, pegged at 100 per cent for beer and 150 per cent for hard liquor and wine. As part of the India-Australia  Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (a limited FTA), India halved the import duties on premium wines from December 29, 2022 to 75 per cent and further reduce it to 25 per cent in nine years. No duty concessions were, however, extended to other liquor, including beer.

“India’s decision to bring down tariffs for Australian products under the CECA, over and above what it granted in the ECTA, will be generally driven by what it gets in return. The Australian government has sought further concessions for liquor but it will need to be negotiated,” a person tracking the matter told BusinessLine.

Supporting the natives

However, since Spinifex Breweries proposal is to limit tariff concessions only to a particular beer subject to the condition that the inputs are sourced from the aboriginal community, the repercussions for the local industry in India may not be huge.

“The use of native botanicals in craft beer has created a new genre within the industry.  The establishment and inclusion of this class within the FTA will expand the interest and use of botanicals by craft breweries and contribute to the commercial viability of First Nations (aboriginal community) businesses. It will result in employment opportunities for First Nations job seeker to work on country and within culturally secure environments,” Spinifex highlighted.

The Noongar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a business advocacy group for aboriginal owned businesses in Western Australia, has also put its weight behind the proposal. “The Spinifex Brewery submission proposes that inclusion of this unique craft beer genre within CECA includes a requirement that the botanicals used must be sourced from First Nations agribusiness producers. This will result in material economic, social and cultural benefit to Australia’s most disadvantaged and marginalised people,” it said in its support letter.