• Cattle Import from Australia

Cattle Import from Australia (Photo : Getty Images)

Australia has started the sea shipment of live cattle to China during the weekend, opening a crucial new route into China's growing market for quality beef, the Australia.com reported.

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According to the report, about 1500 Angus beef cattle were shipped to a port in Shandong Province from Portland in west Victoria. The shipment was principally consigned by Shanghai CRED, a firm headed by Chinese real estate developer Gui Guojie, who invested heavily in the Australian cattle industry, and Elders, a rural conglomerate.

For 18 months, the cattle had to go through animal health procedures before the shipments of the live cattle began. Since then, three trial shipments, with150 head each, have been sent to China by air, the report said.

Elders chief executive Mark Allison said: "The opening of feeder and slaughter markets will drive competition and demand for Australian cattle, creating new opportunities for exporters and producers alike."

Brazil poses a strong competition to Australia, which has already been selling $1 billion worth of beef every year to China. Australia enjoys tariff reductions under the Australia-China free trade agreement. U.S. producers will soon join Brazil as competitors for the Chinese market.

During a visit to China last year, Mark Bennett, ANZ's head of agribusiness, said that the demand from China and other parts of Asia continue to grow and Australia will start building herds to meet the challenge.

Australia's cattle industry is expected to grow from $9 billion to $16 billion, he said. They are also asking China for additional processors, apart from the 11 major firms that are now licensed.

Bennett said that the opening of the live cattle trade has given Australians more opportunities, especially with Chongqing's demand of more than 500,000 heads of cattle a year.

More than 80 percent of the beef that Australia produces are for export. China is its third biggest market, after the U.S. and Japan.