China cattle deal a game-changer: farmers

AAP
Cattle farmers have hailed the prospects of a new live export market with China as a game-changer.

Australian cattle farmers hope the prospect of a new live export deal with China will help them better withstand market volatility.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce gave his tick of approval to the animal health certification requirements on Monday that, once signed by China, will soon allow commercial arrangements to commence.

National Farmers Federation president Brent Finlay says the Chinese have recognised Australia's reputation for high quality, safe and sustainable produce.

"Providing Australian cattle producers with a larger range of export destinations positions the industry to better withstand market volatility and increase competitiveness," he said in a statement on Tuesday.

The focus now shifts to negotiating commercial agreements for supply chain quality assurance and import permits from Chinese authorities. The Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association has described a potential deal as a game-changer.

It's welcomed news after Indonesia announced a dramatically reduced import quota last week.

It will only accept 50,000 head of Australian cattle for July to September, a fraction of the 250,000 imported in the past three months.

The industry is still reeling from the previous Labor government's decision in June 2011 to halt all live cattle exports to Indonesia because of animal cruelty issues at some abattoirs.

Western Australian Farmers Federation president Dale Park said the announcement was good news, but some people mistakenly believed live cattle trade with China would begin swiftly.

Mr Park said the first struggle would be jumping through the hoops of China's protocols and it would probably be early next year before a shipment left.

"People won't be running out to buy extra land, to buy extra cows or anything like that straight away," he told AAP.

"We're going to be a lot more cautious about this demand."

An Animals Australia spokeswoman said China had the world's worst animal welfare track record.

"China has no animal cruelty laws," she said.

"No one will believe that our live export rules will be followed in China when they are being regularly broken in other importing countries, and the repercussions for animals will be horrendous."