On 21 October, 150 head of cattle arrived in Chongqing in south-west China. The Angus steers, from farms in southern New South Wales and northern Victoria, were the first plane-load of live cattle under the export agreement between the two countries. The cattle spent three days in quarantine before heading for processing plants.
The cattle were delivered by Australian export firm Elders. The company’s live export manager Cameron Hall said it had been working closely with Australian and Chinese authorities to ensure they met animal welfare standards. According to reports, the shipment was initially meant to be 170 cattle, but Australian government inspectors refused to allow 20 head of cattle to leave, due to inadequate head room in their crates.
The cattle were bought by Chongqing Hondo Agriculture Group Co, a feed-lot, processing and distribution company based in south-west China.
It was claimed in July the live export deal could be worth between $1 billion and $1.5bn a year to the Australian meat industry. “The 117,000 breeder cattle we sold last year were worth about a quarter of a billion dollars to us,” Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said in July. “Now we’re hoping that, over about a decade, we can take these numbers up. We’re the first nation to crack this market in slaughter cattle.”
Elders chief executive Mark Allison said the export was a milestone. “The opening of feeder and slaughter markets will drive competition and demand for Australian cattle, creating new opportunities for exporters and producers alike,” he said.
According to agriculture analyst ChinaAg, which focuses on the Chinese market, in March 2014, representatives from the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia (DAFWA) visited China to discuss opening up the live cattle trade. The export agreement was finalised in July 2015 and, ChinaAg explained, allowed Australia to export live slaughter and feeder cattle – that is, cattle that is to be fattened prior to slaughter.
According to a report from Rabobank Australia and New Zealand, published in August 2015, Chinese sales of beef and veal are currently experiencing the strongest growth of any meat, at 4.8% (compound annual growth rate/CAGR from 1996 to 2014). Rabobank expected the growth in consumption to decline slightly to 2.2% (CAGR over the next decade), due to a slowing of the economy, although it is still expected to grow faster than other meats.