A giant Chinese meat importer has put food safety and quality at the top of its shopping list as it invests tens of millions of dollars in the WA livestock industry.
Grand Farm president Chen Xibin said there was huge potential to build on WA's reputation for producing safe food using modern farming methods and high standards in processing.
Grand Farm has started eyeing farms in WA as part of its history-making deal with South West meat processor V&V Walsh to secure huge volumes of quality lamb and beef.
Mr Chen arrived in WA late last week for meetings as part of the deal that will see V&V Walsh process an extra 500,000 lambs and 30,000 cattle a year.
Grand Farm, China's biggest importer of red meat from Australia and New Zealand, is investing $1 billion in boosting supply and processing capacity with the backing of authorities in Inner Mongolia. Mr Chen said the company was considering all options for increasing supply out of WA, including buying farms, developing feedlots and live exports.
Mr Chen met live exporter Wellard and visited the company's feedlot at Baldivis over the weekend. They discussed a trial delivery of 3000 breeding ewes by air freight, which could lead to much bigger deals.
Grand Farm is working to improve the genetics of sheep flocks in Inner Mongolia and seeking supply for a vast abattoir system being built in the region.
V&V Walsh owners Greg and Peter Walsh are very junior partners in the Inner Mongolia development as part of their longstanding ties with Mr Chen and Grand Farm, which is trying to lift the bar on food safety and traceability in China with the help of Australian expertise.
Mr Chen's visit coincides with yet more Chinese investment interest in WA farming and moves by politicians to build closer ties.
Shenzhen Cereals Group chairman Zhu Junming, whose com- pany buys 24 million tonnes of grain a year from overseas and domestic suppliers, is expected in WA this week to cast an eye over assets in the grains industry.
_WestBusiness _can reveal that Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce is planning to visit China next month. WA Agriculture Minister Ken Baston is heading to China on a separate trip.
Meanwhile, Andrew Forrest's Minderoo Group confirmed buying thousands of cattle from the Northern Territory to build up herds on its Pilbara stations.