On Monday 20 July 2015, Australian Minister for Agriculture The Hon Barnaby Joyce signed the Australia-China Live Cattle Export Health Certification Agreement (Live Cattle Agreement), which has been under negotiation for over 18 months.1 It is expected that the Chinese Quarantine Minister, Zhi Shuping, will sign the agreement on behalf of China shortly.

Although Australia already exports significant numbers of 'breeder' cattle to China, primarily for the purposes of dairy farming,2 the Live Cattle Agreement sets animal health certification requirements for Australian 'feeder and slaughter' cattle to be exported to feed China’s growing demand for Australian meat.

The Live Cattle Agreement is a necessary step before the agriculture industry can begin exporting live cattle to China. Once signed by Minister Zhi, Australian 'feeder and slaughter' cattle exporters with a livestock export licence can begin to arrange post arrival supply chains under the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS). Exporters can then proceed to export cattle to China3 provided the cattle meets certain health standards.

Once the Live Cattle Agreement is finalised, Australia will become the first country to export 'feeder and slaughter' cattle to China. This is particularly timely in light of Indonesia’s recent reduction of import quotas for live Australian cattle. China will be the seventh live cattle export market that has been opened to Australia in the past two years, following Lebanon, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Cambodia and Thailand.4

It is expected that cattle will begin to be shipped to China under the Live Cattle Agreement within months. The Agreement is expected to lead to a doubling of the overall amount of live cattle exported from Australia within the next decade, which currently sits at 1.2 million head of slaughter cattle per annum. It is also expected to generate greater investment in the Australian agriculture industry.

Australian agricultural exporters to China will also be assisted by the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) that was signed on 17 June 2015 and includes provisions that will eliminate all tariffs imposed on live Australian cattle exports from its current rate of 10% over the next four years.5 More information about ChAFTA can be found in our article here.

- Jessica Ji