► RELATED: China beef deal a “watershed moment”
BILLIONAIRE global mining and agricultural entrepreneur Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest says the new agreement on beef trade struck between Australia and China today is a “game changing announcement” for the local sector.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull revealed details of the deal today in Canberra after talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
Mr Turnbull said expansion of chilled beef trade arrangements to China - Australia’s largest trading partner, with two-way trade in 2015-16 worth $150 billion – would “drive significant future growth”.
“Our high-quality clean, green agricultural produce supports China's food security,” he said.
“I'm pleased to announce with the Premier that China agreed to expand opportunities for our meat exporters.
“The finalised major agreement includes a meat export package which expands chilled meat access from 11 exporters to all eligible Australian exporters.
“Australia is the only country in the world with this market access.
“Australian chilled beef exports to China are already worth $400 million a year and more companies will also be eligible to export frozen beef.
“Total beef exports, overall, are worth around $1b dollars a year.
“This new agreement will drive significant future growth.”
Mr Forrest was also in Canberra today where he was signing other high level agribusiness deals with China, driven through his role leading the ASA100 group that involves industry leaders from both countries.
the ASA100 aims to bring together expertise from both countries to improve branding and marketing of Australian farm produce to help turbo-charge economic gains achieved through tariff cuts delivered via the Australia-China Free Trade Agreement.
Mr Forrest said the new beef trade arrangements unveiled by Mr Turnbull represented “a game changing announcement” to capitalise on Australia’s leading global food production reputation.
He said it would help drive significant growth for the Australian farming and Australian food processing sectors and help Australia to, “lift itself as a value adder of farming products which are exceptional”.
“Australia has the highest animal husbandry standards in the world which produces the finest beef in the world which can now produce food of the highest reliability and safety, for the Chinese consumer,” he said.
“We’ve worked very hard at ASA100 to have all of Australian beef to be accepted into China and remove the non-tariff barrier of frozen only which was harming Australia.”
Mr Forrest conceded Australia had exported chilled beef to China prior to the announcement but only on a “very small basis, with a very select few”.
“And sometimes people questioned why them and not everyone else; is their factional plays or favours done?” he said.
“But this now demonstrates that actually all Australian farmers are going to be treated the same and all Australian food exporters will be treated the same and most importantly China is recognising Australia, not as its back yard, but as a legitimate and major food producer,” he said.
Mr Forrest said after today’s announcement he trusted the Australian government would “move quickly to meet our side of the bargain” which was to encourage beef exporters to meet the standards required locally, “and I think we certainly will”.
The Minderoo chair said his subsidiary company, Harvey Beef, was one of Australia’s oldest and largest beef processors and would “immediately step up to the plate” to move forward with the new beef arrangements into China.
“And I’ll be encouraging all Australian beef producers to do the same thing,” he said.
“Let’s be careful not to compete against each other; let’s compete against the world.
“Now that we can export chilled beef to China, it means Australia can really compete as a food supplier, as opposed to just a live animal supplier.”
Mr Turnbull said Australia's stock of direct investment in China had grown from $847 million in 2005 to $14 billion in 2015.
“With the China-Australia free trade agreement we've further increased those economic opportunities and we are already seeing excellent uptake with more than 85 per cent of eligible goods accessing lower tariffs in both directions,” he said.
“We can see the results for our farmers, small businesses and industries.
“In 2016 wine exports to China were up 38pc to $470 million - fresh oranges up 46pc, and Chinese imports of Australian lobster quadrupled.
“As China transitions to a consumer-driven economy, Australia is well placed to meet Chinese demands for high quality, safe food, beverages, consumer items and services.
“China's transition to an economy that is more led by consumers, consumption, is an enormous opportunity for Australian exporters, for Australian businesses, in every field.”
Mr Forrest said Minderoo had also made a commitment to work with JD.com to enhance food distribution with the Chinese partner guaranteeing to source and supply Australian product to consumers which provided a “real competitive advantage in China”.
“We don’t want our products getting ripped off by cheap look-a-likes,” Mr Forrest said adding an agreement had also been signed on a $500m food fund during this week’s trade talks.
He said the deal with the Minderoo Food Group and JD.com would “really accelerate the effectiveness of e-marketing and e-commerce of Australian agricultural produce into China, to put Australia on the leading edge of that commercial battlefield which obviously involves the rest of the global food world”.
“It will really help put Australia at the forefront and that’s what I’m aiming for, for every single Australian farmer,” he said.
“To make Australian farm exports more efficient into Chin and to keep a sustained demand and therefore market for all Australian agricultural produce.
“The very reason why I started the ASA100 was to bring a cohesive vision to the Australian faring industry, to stop the huge loss of our youth and our daughters and sons leaving the sector because it’s just seen as an old world, an old technology sector.
“But we need to turn that sentiment around and say it’s not old world it’s very much new world and the future of our country and every daughter or son of a farming family should look at this industry with confidence, as a future career.”