By ERWIN CHLANDA
A $1b live export deal with China could be the most significant benefit to the cattle industry in The Centre in more than a decade, after nine years of drought and two years when shipping “on the hoof” was banned by the Federal Government in 2011.
Tracey Hayes, Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association president, says there has been no official announcement of the deal as yet: “We are still waiting to hear, but we understand an announcement is imminent.”
Commenting on media reports of statements by Federal frontbencher Christopher Pyne she says there are two issues, a free trade agreement, and negotiations for live shipments into China: “If necessary, each needs to be able to happen without the other.”
Ms Hayes says 80,000 cattle from Central Australia (worth around $100m) and 200,000 from the Barkly are turned off each year.
There are 2.2m head in the NT.
It would take “a number of years” for the industry to position itself for a trade with China, but should it happen, is it likely “the increase in competitive tension” would lift prices and the long dormant value of properties.
She says following the live export ban not a single cattle station in the Territory has changed hands in over a year.
Confidence had “crashed” in the wake of the live export ban imposed by the previous Federal Government, and “balance sheet equity values went out the window”.
Ms Hayes (pictured) says for the sake of long term sustainability, the “highly valued” markets of Indonesia and Vietnam, and now the emerging one in Cambodia, must not be neglected, and neither should the processing and feedlot sector in southern states.
China would be a welcome addition to the industry’s portfolio.
In addition, the China trade would encourage production not only of volume but of quality as well, and Central Australian breeders are well placed to provide it.
What the price increase would be is still unclear – perhaps 20c to 50c a kilo. Present sales prices for a 500 kilo beast are around $2.50 a kilo via live export.
By ERWIN CHLANDA