Former trade minister Andrew Robb AO has told delegates at Red Meat that Asia and, in particular China, is where Australia must focus for future red meat export opportunities.
Mr Robb was trade minister between 2013 and 2016 having been elected to parliament in 2004.
He had previously served as executive director of both the Cattle Council of Australia and the National Farmers' Federation.
Since leaving politics he's worked as a business consultant advising companies in Asia. He is also on the board of the S. Kidman and Co pastoral group.
Mr Robb started his address by citing a bit of economic history, crediting the political decisions of governments in the 80s and 90s to liberalise trade, for the position the country is in now.
"The freeing up of the economy means we've had 28 years of unbroken economic growth," he said.
"We've averaged 3.5 per cent for 28 years which is unmatched by any other G20 economy."
As well he said the free trade agreements Australia has reached are a massive positive for the red meat industry.
"They give us a measure of protection, because we're getting preferential access to what are our best markets for beef and sheepmeat," he said.
"With China for the last 12 months we saw tariffs, from 2015, progressively reduced and in January this year tariffs on imports from China went down to zero.
"For Australian goods going into China, 98 per cent of all tariffs have been removed.
"Over the past year that's helped facilitate a massive increase in exports to China."
For red meat that's partly been driven by the Asian swine fever outbreak, but there's also an increase in other commodities like wine.
There's also the ongoing tariff war between China and the US which Mr Robb said has been a positive for Australia.
"The American tariff attack on China has opened up opportunities for us, but that's where you've got to be on the front foot to take advantage," he said.
"Then you get something like the swine fever which is putting a floor in many respects in prices for cattle going to meatworks."
While there's wildly fluctuating stories on how many pigs have been destroyed in China since the ASF outbreak, based on his numerous trips to the country and his business associations, Mr Robb believes the figure is astronomic.
"One fellow I know is the chairman of the biggest private agricultural business in China, which produces half a billion pigs a year," he said.
"He's had to get rid of half of them."
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