Our breeds may not be first choice
A NEW golden age dawns for the beef industry, but as far as a mooted one million head live cattle deal with China is concerned, there are fears North Queensland might only get the crumbs which fall from the table.
Dependency on the short- haired brahman breed and its derivatives, plus the presence of non- infectious bluetongue disease, could see Chinese importers reaching across the North and into the southern beef areas for the bulk of their supply.
The ongoing drought is seen as another immediate barrier. Even when it breaks, leading producer Alistair McClymont from Burleigh Station, Richmond, says supplies will be tight while breeding herd rebuilds.
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce signing off on a deal to send one million cattle to China is still seen as a g giant step p f o r w a r d for the Australian beef industry.
The deal has created enormous excitement, but more measured analysts such as Mr McClymont and Alison Penfold from the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council temper the celebratory mood with cautionary explanations of disease protocols and supplypp y management.
This is n not to say they are talking the deal do down – just the opposite.
Both sa say it is huge development but questi question the depth of the role Northern Australia will play. On One leading exporter told the Bulletin that, regardless o of whether China takes north Australian cattle, the North will still win.
“If they take large numbers of ca cattle out of the southern states, they will need to be replaced. It will ha have a domino effect. The North will end up filling the vacuum created by the loss of these cattle to China,” he said.
Mr Mc McClymont said he
We need to ensure we receive a price for our cattle that allows the producers to reinvest
TOWNSVILLE MAYOR JENNY HILL
felt the Chinese would prefer “hairier” European breeds from the southern states over short- haired brahman- cross breeds from tropical Australia.
He also sees an ongoing problem arising when the drought breaks.
“People will be holding on to cattle in order to build numbers back up. There have been a lot of cows sent to slaughter from the Gulf, Peninsula and Charters Towers areas. People will be breeding up their numbers when the rains come,” he said. Mr McClymont said the North would maintain its status as the nation’s calf- breeding factory for the south, but added it would need to increase productivity to meet heightened demand. He said the key to unlocking the potential of the inland plains lay with water development.
“If we are going to lift productivity, we have to look at crops like cottonseed and sorghum. We need water to do that,” he said.
He said that on his Etta Plains Station north of Julia Creek he had 9000ha of arable land, but only enough licensed water from the Flinders River to irrigate 3000ha.
“I’m just one example. There a lot more like me,” he said.
Ms Penfold said China was sensitive to the presence of bluetongue virus, which extended roughly from Broome to Sydney.
Ms Penfold said the build- up of trade with China would not be overnight, describing slow build”.
“There will be opportunities for European and brahman cattle. It will come down to commercial decisions,” she said.
Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said bluetongue was endemic in China and negotiators would use its presence as a means to leverage prices.
“The export orders for our northern producers will be significant, but supply will be a challenge,” she said.
“We need to ensure we receive a price for our cattle that allows the producers to reinvest back into their properties so they can run more cattle.”
Cr Hill said the China deal underlined the need to press on with plans to create new water infrastructure in the northern inland.
Ms Penfold said the first exports to China under the agreement could happen over “the next few months”.
it as “a long,
GROWTH INDUSTRY: The North might have to fight to get its share of benefits from the China deal.