A NEW trade agreement will allow more chilled beef to be exported into China markets, and Oakey Beef Exports is ready to take advantage of that, according to general manager Pat Gleeson.
The reduction in non-tariff barriers for export was signed off recently by the Federal Government and the Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China Li Keqiang.
It will see an increase the number of abattoirs registered to export red meat and offal to China, including those on the Darling Downs.
Out of 47 integrated establishments (meat processors) that can export to China, only 11 are approved to export chilled beef.
The agreement has approved all 47 for fresh red meat, with further approvals for cold stores and integrated establishments that meet standards planned.
Mr Gleeson said the announcement would benefit the whole industry.
He said Oakey Beef Exports was heading into unchartered waters.
Its core business had previously been selling whole rumps and cube rolls.
It will now start to look at selling self-ready products direct to China.
That would mean one or two steaks in a packet, with information about the Darling Downs, food safety in Australian and the integrity of the local product.
Mr Gleeson said the company would target the top end of town with premium products.
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"It's hard to compete with Brazil and their commodity products. - with their extremely low wage costs.
He said given the large population in China, even a small market share could bring huge dividends.
The Japanese-owned Oakey company exports to 34 countries under the Nippon Ham umbrella including Korea and the United States, but its biggest market is Japan.
Because of the proximity of Australia to China, and Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport to Oakey, products can be processed on a Monday and be on a shelf in Shanghai by Thursday.
"We can maintain our shelf life for our product which gives time for the retailer to sell it."
Oakey Beef Exports is in discussions with a Chinese company about the plans.
Mr Gleeson last year attended the Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise-led delegation from Toowoomba to China known as AccessChina16.
One of the things that resonated with him on that trip was the lack of confidence from Chinese consumers in their local products.
He said there was a lack of trust regarding food tampering and general safety regulations.
But they do trust Australian products.
"The challenge for us is to show we have clear control of our product from the time it leaves here and that it is picked up by our people or a trusted third party.
Oakey Beef Exports is planning massive expansion which involve improving the storage capacity and carcass chambers for cattle as well as the robotic computer systems.
Mr Gleeson said the new agreement would likely give the plant's owners more confidence to inject capital into Oakey as it looks to expand its markets.
"That's a win for all and has a flow on effect to the community and local producers."
Food Leaders Australia
Food Leaders Australia is a lobby group that aims to support the growth of businesses working within the food and agricultural space nation-wide to capitalise on opportunities in the global market.
Chief executive officer Ben Lyons said market access was a key topic on the AccessChina'16 trade delegation, where consultations were held around the barriers to chilled beef exports.
"These barriers with discussed with Meat and Livestock Australia, Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Keith Pitt and Chinese customers," he said.
"We're excited by the news that this barrier has been removed and the Darling Downs can further export its products to a beef hungry market."
"This is also significant news for our weekly freighter service, with Cathay Pacific able to hub out of Hong Kong and into 22 mainland China destinations."
"The ability to sell chilled as compared to just frozen produce adds to the premium export capacity. There are a number of importers and customers in China that have been waiting for this announcement."
"Our region has four China accredited abattoirs as well as an accompanying weekly freight service from Wellcamp airport, making for a perfect combination for export potential."
"The newly announced AccessHongKong trip will also underpin further awareness of our premium beef offering to those markets, with the trip planned from September 3-7."
"We are continuing the story of our region selling to the China market, and this success is another milestone for Darling Downs' producers."
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