The signing of the health protocol earlier this week outlines the conditions for the trade of Australian feeder and slaughter cattle to China.
Reports claim the deal could be worth anything from $1bn to $1.5bn a year to the Australian economy.
Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce said: “Over the past five years we’ve had a significant trade in breeder cattle with China, primarily for dairy heifers. Now, I’m pleased to announce we are a step closer to the commencement in trade in live slaughter and feeder cattle to China.
“Getting the groundwork right for any new market can take time, and now the industry can prepare to begin this trade.”
CEO of the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council Alison Penfold called the deal a “major breakthrough” for the Australian livestock export industry.
“The true potential of the China market is something exporters are very keen to explore with a steady stream of quality cattle as soon as possible,” she said.
“While the protocol defines the necessary health and preparation conditions for cattle to China to enable the trade to commence, commercial agreements need to be finalised, ESCAS supply chains still need to be established and import permits need to be issued by Chinese authorities.”
The deal has specific requirements for the export of feeder and slaughter cattle from Australia’s bluetongue virus zone to China’s bluetongue virus areas and limitations on ports of entry.
However, there was note of caution issued on the cattle supply. Western Australia council representative and Brunswick feedlot operator Geoff Pearson warned that the country has to be “mindful of our own paddock”.
In an audio interview on ABC he said: “We’ve got to be mindful of the existing markets we’ve got and the emerging markets that have happened pre-China. We have got a situation where we are going have a shortfall of cattle within Australia and we have got to be looking at the local markets and domestic.”
Australia’s beef-prices are at record-levels following demand from Asia and there have been reports that the price of beef is rising domestically.