AUSTRALIAN beef exports to China have hit the level where a safeguard is triggered and tariffs more than double.
For the rest of this year, Australian beef going into China will attract a 12 per cent tariff, an increase from the 4.8pc for shipments so far this year.
The safeguard, worked into the China Australia Free Trade Agreement, was set at just under 180,000 tonnes of beef this year.
The tariff will drop back to the lower level at the start of next year.
Meat & Livestock Australia's market insights manager Tim Ryan said the tariff increase puts Australia on a level playing field with South American exporters.
"Australia triggered the safeguard in August last year but it did not prohibit the trade - in fact, Australian beef exports to China grew 115 per cent year-on-year in the last four months of 2019," he said.
China has become a major customer for Australian red meat products, adding a good deal of value to Australia exports, Mr Ryan said.
China is now our biggest beef and sheepmeat export market.
Last year, China meat imports reached an all-time high and year-to-date beef volumes are tracking above the 2019 levels, despite pandemic disruptions.
Meat & Livestock Australia analysts said strong demand from a growing class of affluent consumers and a massive domestic protein deficit due to African Swine Fever pushed China to import the largest annual volume of protein through customs in its history in 2019.
China imported just under 6 million tonnes shipping weight of combined beef, sheepmeat, poultry, pork and offal in 2019, making it the largest imported meat market in the world.
Forecasts from major banks and beef analysts point to similar demand this year and next.