However, despite a recent surge in media headlines proclaiming China as Australia's next major market for live cattle, some serious obstacles still stand in the way of the market becoming a realistic alternative for northern cattle exports in particular.
Behind the excitement is a compelling story of rapidly growing Chinese demand for red meat, highlighted by the recent surge in boxed beef imports to the market from 19,000 tons in 2011-12 to 92,000 tons in 2012-13.
China’s own cattle herd has come down from an estimated 130 million head in recent years to around 90 million today, and with that has come an emerging recognition within the country that it can no longer produce enough local beef to satisfy demand.
Trade reports indicating that Chinese abattoirs are operating at just 30-percent capacity further serve to highlight the extent of China’s beef supply shortfall.
Adding to the optimism for Australia’s live cattle trade is the fact that an established supply chain into China already exists, in the form of Australia’s export dairy heifer trade which involves the shipment of around 50,000 cattle from Southern Australia to China for breeding purposes each year.
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