WA strengthened its farming ties with China yesterday as it pushed ahead with plans to double the value of beef and other agriculture production over the next decade.
The deal signed in Haikou in southern China is a major step forward in opening up live cattle exports to a vast meat processing hub on Hainan Island.
The memorandum of understanding commits WA and Hainan to working together in beef and other industries.
The Department of Agriculture and Food WA will share expertise and technical knowledge with counterparts in Hainan with a focus on livestock including "beef supply chain strategies to expand feedlot and beef processing opportunities".
The departments will form a task force, do joint research and encourage businesses to invest in infrastructure in both states.
In WA's case that is likely to include Chinese investment in irrigating pastoral land and large-scale feedlots as production is boosted to meet demand for hundreds of thousands of cattle.
The heads of the departments were expected to formalise the MOU but in a strong signal of how seriously the two governments are taking the project, Agriculture Minister Ken Baston and Hainan Agriculture Minister Huaan Jiang signed the deal.
Hainan is similar in conditions and climate to Indonesia where Australia has vast experience in handling imported cattle.
The island is considered a suitable entry point because it promotes its natural advantages for quarantine. It has processing facilities developed over 18 months with a capacity to slaughter millions of pigs a year. The MOU builds on one signed between WA live export companies and companies in Hainan this year.
Live exporters and the WA Government have also signed two similar deals with sister State Zhejiang. "We are leading the way in opening up live cattle and exports via Hainan Island, a natural landing place for livestock from WA," Mr Baston said.
It is believed a Hainan processor had initial talks with billionaire Andrew Forrest and Elders about live cattle exports.
Mr Jiang said the two governments had a solid foundation and he wanted to build on it.