Queensland graziers look to China

The West Australian

More Australian cattle could soon be shipped to China as the Queensland government looks at ways to revive the north's ailing cattle industry.

About 150 graziers attended the Northern Stakeholder Forum in Mount Isa on Tuesday to discuss the state of the northern beef sector.

Graziers said the industry was suffering due to a state-wide drought and plummeting cattle prices caused largely by a reduction in live cattle exports to Indonesia.

Agriculture Minister John McVeigh said he planned to hold talks with Chinese officials in coming months in an attempt to boost the market.

"There needs to continuously be a real focus on the live cattle export trade into the likes of Indonesia and other Asian countries," he said.

"China has shown some interest for example. We don't want to become too reliant on any one market in the future."

Last year, 260,000 beasts were sent to Indonesia - Australia's largest live cattle market - while just 58,000 went to China.

China already buys 100,000 tonnes of Australian beef each year.

Mr McVeigh said generally boosting the cattle trade was vital as northern graziers were suffering.

"We've got many families who are in significant financial and emotional stress and that's our number one focus," he said.

Graziers claimed a temporary ban on cattle exports to Indonesia in 2011, brought on by claims of cattle being mistreated, crippled the industry.

Before the ban, Indonesia's import quota was about 660,000 a year.

AgForce president Ian Burnett said the announcement Indonesia would accept a further 25,000 cattle was welcomed, but wasn't enough to save the industry.

"We'd like to see ongoing efforts to repair the relationship with Indonesia," he said.

AAP

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