Traditional tastes and regional variations still play out strongly in China. We are up against a consumer who often robs core meat products of any kind of redeeming characteristic through the preparation and cooking process. The difference between mutton, lamb and goat is lost on most, and each of the 1.4 billion people in 23 provinces have different basic taste preferences.
LOOK OUT FOR LIVE CATTLE
Live cattle sales from Australia to China have been catapulted into the frame. Before our tour I had reservations about China being a significant live cattle market for us in the short term.
But speaking to industry in China, it is rapidly organising itself and will invest strategically to make this big and make it happen. The concept of taking one million live cattle from Australia in any given year is right in their sights and they have an acute awareness of the issues and obstacles that will need to be overcome.
And what of the balance between chilled meat sales to China and Asia and live cattle trade? China has a domestic motivation to create industry prosperity and not just be a one dimensional food importer.
It is fighting back against food safety concerns emanating from a local supply chain dominated by local slaughterhouses of old equipment and outdated processes. Clean, modern, efficient plants that comply with the highest global standards of food safety and animal care is their charter.
The demands of a growing and increasingly wealthy population leave room for Australia to supply cattle as well as branded chilled product to an open market that demands choice.
Don't underestimate the value of ChAFTA. We naturally focus on the short term price outcomes needed by our industry, especially farmers, but many individual commodity agreements have a phased tariff reduction over many years.
Those we spoke to in China see ChAFTA as a meaningful and strategic avenue to trade and investment opportunity. Short of global seasonal production swings, we are not going to see an overnight fundamental shift in soft commodity prices that answers the margin or profit lament of Australian producers.
Time, patience, money, passion, connection and trusted relationships are needed in order to successfully tackle the China market. But wow, what a big and exciting market it is.
Our cattle industry in particular has so much ahead of it and I think there will be massive implications to our grains industry as it ties so closely to animal production both in Australia and in Asia. That's another topic on its own.
China is a market that's been talked about for a long time but it's now a giant making an enormous impact that has not yet been fully felt.
Mark Bennett is Head of Agribusiness, Australia at ANZ.