THE first shipment of live northern Australian slaughter cattle to China was loaded out of Townsville today.
The consignment of 1600 crossbred cattle has been prepared by the North Australian Cattle Company (NACC) and is scheduled to discharge in China's Zhejiang province after a 10-day voyage.
Sourced from 22 northern Australian producers, the cattle are predominantly Santa Gertrudis and Droughtmaster with a sprinkling of Charolais over Brahman, plus some Brangus.
They made 285 cents per kilogram, which represents a 15 cent-per-kilogram premium over current export orders in Queensland.
Townsville agent Tom Kennedy, Elders live export Queensland manager, said the trade represented a welcome new market.
“Our focus is on giving our clients another option to run with,” he said.
NACC, purchased mid last year from Elders by its managers and Chinese outfit Zhoushan Fanda Australian Cattle Industrial, has had the potential of the emerging China slaughter cattle trade in its sights since export agreements were struck between Australia and China in 2015 alongside the Australia-China Free Trade Agreement.
“Given that export agreement applies specific conditions on the export of cattle sourced from Australia’s bluetongue zone, this week’s breakthrough shipment of northern cattle is a significant breakthrough and testament to the enterprising nature of Australian livestock exporters,” the Australian Livestock Exporters Council (ALEC) said.
“In addition to the professional stockman on board, and the team of livestock workers who are members of the Bison Express crew, an Australian-Government Accredited Veterinarian (AAV) will be on board throughout the voyage.”
NACC opened the China slaughter cattle trade early last year, exporting 1200 head of mainly black Angus out of Portland, Victoria.
The cattle were sourced entirely through Elders’ networks in Victoria and South Australia.
Two air freighted consignments by Elders in 2015 and 2016 had already proven effective trials.
Australia’s largest live exporter, Wellard Limited, then sent a shipment of 2000 Angus and Angus-cross steers, also sourced from across Victoria and South Australia, in November last year.
The trade is expected have a significant influence on Australia’s beef industry with exporters suggesting the Chinese demand for live cattle for immediate processing could see up to a million head a year shipped.
The shortage of cattle, and resulting high prices, in Australia has largely stifled business since the export agreement was struck.
Red Meat Advisory Council chair Don Mackay said the shipment demonstrated what could be achieved when members of the red meat industry worked together with government and overseas customers.
“The forging of new markets complements our existing export supply chains, while adding extra competition for producers and increasing the overall value of Australia’s $18 billion red meat sector,” he said.
Cattle Council of Australia president Howard Smith said: “Cattle Council recognises the Australian livestock export trade as an economically significant alternative to domestic processing, creating essential market diversity and competition for Australian cattle producers. The departure of this shipment of slaughter cattle from Townsville to China is a perfect example of the beef sector’s diversification. The shipment also continues to demonstrate that our domestic biosecurity protocols protect our sector and, importantly, receive recognition from overseas markets.”
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