China market for Australian beef now open


Sue Neales, The Australian

February 17, 2017


Bright young business manager Yue Leng stands in her neat black suit surrounded by mountains of rich red Australian beef in the shiny new city of Dalian on China’s northeast coast. To her left are big chunks of frozen Australian quartered beef hanging behind glass in the cool room for this the newly opened specialist Australian beef shop she runs, built off an up-market supermarket in a shopping mall that could be in Bondi Junction or Chadstone.


To her right are shelves of chilled Australian beef priced at $25 a kilogram or more. Some are thinly sliced to suit traditional Chinese “hot pot” meals, while other trays are filled with more expensive luscious thick steaks for well-off younger Chinese customers who prefer to eat their beef like Westerners.


Leng is the Dalian manager of AAAW Beef, the Australian farming and cattle export arm of the giant Dashang Group, which — with its 200,000 employees, $15 billion sales and 300 supermarkets — is the largest retailer in northern China. She is also at the forefront of the new live beef cattle export trade that began this month between Australia and China.


The long-awaited new industry, first flagged in 2015 when early protocols were signed, promises to see as many as one million cattle shipped each year from southern Australian farms to custom-built new feedlots and abattoirs along the Chinese coast. It could more than double the size of the current live cattle industry, which last year saw 1,013,576 cattle worth $1.5bn exported live from northern Australian cattle stations, with 60 per cent destined for Indonesia and 20 per cent for Vietnam.


The historic first China-bound sea-shipment of 1200 cattle by the Elders group left Victoria’s Portland two weeks ago, scheduled to arrive in the north Chinese port of Shidao on Sunday. The entire load of mainly black angus cattle is being imported by the Tai Xiang Group, a company specialising in the processing and production of frozen processed food. Like a dozen other Chinese companies, it has just invested in building new handling and cattle processing close to Shidao port, to meet both Chinese live cattle import regulations and Australia’s strict animal welfare (ESCAS) standards.


In turn, Tai Xiang and its Baozhu Food company are part of Shanghai CRED, the former state-owned real estate company that, under the private ownership of billionaire property developer ­Guojie Gui, last year joined with Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Beef to buy the Kidman cattle empire. Already positioned to be a big player in the hard commodity of iron ore, thanks to her $10bn Roy Hill mine in the Pilbara, Australia’s richest woman is also poised to be a major force in the soft commodity of beef...