Far North cattlemen warn against trade war
TABLELANDS cattle farmers have warned their industry will suffer if the diplomatic row between China and Australia continues.
Bilateral tensions have been brewing since Australia called for an inquest into the origins of COVID-19 with China's move to ban beef imports the latest tactic from the Asian superpower.
China's recent suspension of four Australian abattoirs' import licences, for old labelling and certification issues, followed last month's warning from Chinese ambassador Jingye Cheng that the Morrison Government's call for an inquest could lead to boycotting Australian products.
Tablelands beef producer and Advance Cairns executive chairman Nick Trompf said it was not the "end of the world" for the local industry with the region's abattoirs in Townsville and Mackay not on China's banned list.
He also noted that prices were remaining stable so far with a much better idea expected earlier next week when other markets report.
"Certainly none of us welcome the news, we'd rather it didn't happen as China is the biggest beef export market for Australia," he said.
"Having said that we've had these skirmishes with China in the past and after a few months they've passed so I'm hoping that occurs again this time.
"We all hope farmers aren't the collateral damage in a diplomatic and political fight."
But he said that while the situation was currently manageable there was a "real nervousness" within the Tablelands beef-growing community about what would happen if the trade wars were to escalate or continue.
"If it becomes permanent that's a much bigger concern, and if China goes further and puts an outright ban then tremors will go through the industry but that's not likely to happen.
"Half of the Chinese pig population has been wiped out by swine fever so consumption of chicken and beef has gone through the roof.
"There's a demand for protein and they have to get their meat from somewhere."
Mareeba Saleyards board member and Millaa Millaa farmer Graham Elmes said he was concerned ongoing tensions would lead to a drop in prices across the country.
"Once you take a couple of big meatworks out of the equation, those cattle have to be put in another market somewhere," he said.
"If this trade war carries on it could have an implication across our whole beef industry.
"It would have a big impact on our sale yard for the sole reason 90 per cent of our cattle goes to Townsville or Mackay, but lately there have been a quite a number sent to Dinmore which is one of the works that's closed down in Brisbane.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said it was "disappointing" China did not alert Australia before black-listing the abattoirs.
"This is an understandable concern for Australian agriculture, thousands of jobs relate to these meat processing facilities" he said.
"Many more farmers rely upon them in terms of selling cattle into those facilities, and it is a very important market for Australia.
"But I would emphasise, there are many other meat processing facilities that will continue under their approved permits to send product to China as they do, indeed, around the rest of the world."
Originally published as Far North cattlemen warn against trade war