Wellard’s China cattle export a first

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
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Wellard operations manager Ben Giblett and China general manager Bernie Brosnan with the cattle ahead of loading.
Camera IconWellard operations manager Ben Giblett and China general manager Bernie Brosnan with the cattle ahead of loading.

Wellard’s first shipment of steers to China was due to set sail from Portland in Victoria last night, marking a milestone in the embattled WA exporter’s recovery plans.

The cattle shipment also marks the biggest from Australia to China since the two countries signed a free-trade agreement in 2015, opening the way for live exports to the lucrative Chinese market.

High prices for Australian cattle since then have stifled development of the Chinese export trade, limiting sales to two air consignments and a smaller sea shipment by Elders in February.

However, Wellard seized the opportunity from a slight easing in prices in recent months to arrange the shipment of 2000 Angus and Angus-cross steers, sourced from Victoria and South Australia.

The cattle were loaded aboard the 23-year-old MV Ocean Ute for the voyage to Shidao in the Chinese province of Shandong and will be supplied to Rongcheng HCMH Trade and Service — a subsidiary of Tai Xiang Group, a Chinese company specialising in frozen and processed food.

Wellard executive director of operations Fred Troncone said the group had been careful to ensure its first shipment was managed professionally with quality cattle, the aim being to develop a more regular trade, growing cattle exports to China and increasing vessel utilisation.

He said smaller shipments would dominate the initial live cattle trade between the two countries in the short term but it had the capacity to increase significantly as the commercial landscape rebalanced.

Wellard has been a long-term supplier to China, supplying dairy and beef breeder cattle. This is the first shipment of cattle for processing.

Wellard has no imminent plans to ship cattle to China from WA.

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