China comes calling for cattle

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
China is seen as a lucrative market for live cattle exports.
Camera IconChina is seen as a lucrative market for live cattle exports. Credit: Nathan Dyer.

WA will move a step closer to an historic live cattle shipment to China this week when business leaders from Zhejiang and Hainan Island inspect every aspect of the local supply chain.

The Department of Agriculture and Food WA is hosting the delegation on site visits from the South West to the Kimberley, taking in ports, saleyards, abattoirs and feedlots.

Delegations from other provinces will follow over the next few months as Chinese companies seek to take advantage of import protocols finalised last year by trade officials in Beijing and Canberra.

The protocols require abattoirs in China to be close to ports and for the cattle to come from parts of Australia free from blue tongue, an inset-borne viral disease than can affect livestock.

DAFWA director of beef industry development Brad McCormick declined to speculate on when the first shipment might leave WA, but noted the rapid progress in China.

“Port upgrades have happened and are happening,” he said. “The next part is the quarantine feedlots and the abattoirs, and we have seen all those types of developments under way.”

Mr McCormick said the Chinese wanted to learn about the types of cattle available in WA and the State’s capabilities in live export.

“It is about taking them through the whole supply chain and making them comfortable about the fact that our system delivers, which it does,” he said. “We have a long history in live export and it runs like a well-oiled machine.”

All of WA south of a line from about Broome to the Northern Territory border is rated blue tongue-free.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and industry leaders have tipped China’s demand for live cattle to quickly reach one million head a year.

“In WA, we have a track record of being able to produce 250,000 to 360,000 head of cattle a year for live export,” Mr McCormick said. “Can that number grow? Of course it can if there is demand for a specific type of cattle and buyers are prepared to pay for those cattle.”

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