Warnings about the pitfalls that can come with dealing with China have been further underlined with confirmation that the rapidly-growing beef market has temporarily suspended imports of chilled beef.
There have been numerous reports today suggesting Chinese authorities have banned chilled beef imports based on queries about quality control.
However industry leaders state there has been no product rejected, the suspension is only temporary, and nor is this a food safety issue.
Industry insiders have told Beef Central they believe the issue is symptomatic of the growing pains that can occur when a market experiences exponential growth, such as China has in recent years.
Australian beef exports to China have surged from 12,000t in 2011 to 92,000t in 2012, and are expected to total around 130,000t this year.
One source said it was likely that China was trying to regulate the flow of product into the market in the wake of the vast volumes that have flown into the country in recent times.
“It is a symptom of growing pains, there has been so much meat entering the market, the price has been going up, and the Chinese Government is trying to put a handbrake on things a little,” the source said.
It is important to note that this development has no effect on the frozen beef market which represents the majority of Australia’s shipments to the market.
In August 2013, for example, chilled beef accounted for 1182t of 8pc of Australia’s total exports to China, while frozen beef exports totalled 12,151t.
In calendar year-to-date terms, total chilled tonnage was 12,191t, versus 68,424t in frozen form.
The Australian Government will be issuing a statement later today.
National Farmers Federation president Duncan Fraser said industry was watching the development closely.
“You've got to put this into the context of the background with the new government. We're restarting negotiations on free trade agreements as well as multilateral agreements, but principally free trade
agreement with China,” he said on ABC radio.
“So the issue of boxed beef is a great issue for us because there's pressure on us to replace our live cattle exports with boxed beef. So if a major market like China has concerns there, it does have ramifications for the rest of our markets.”
Mr Fraser also suggested that the move may be motivated by a desire on China’s behalf to strengthen its negotiating position ahead of free trade talks.
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