Auctioneers at the Miriam Vale cattle sale on February 21, 2020.
Auctioneers at the Miriam Vale cattle sale on February 21, 2020.

‘Due course to be worried’: CQ beef and China trade trouble

The Central Queensland cattle market could be affected by China's suspension of imports from four Australian abattoirs if it isn't resolved within the initial 30-day period, a local MP has warned.

Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd said producers had "due course to be worried" and the suspension was a concern for his electorate, which includes significant grazing country.

"I've spoken to four big beef producers in Central Queensland in the past few days," he said.

"Like everyone else, they are concerned and realise that it's a very delicate relationship between Australia and China with trade."

The suspension includes three major meatworks in southern Queensland and one in New South Wales.

China has also flagged plans to introduce an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley.

AgForce Queensland cattle president and Calliope producer Will Wilson said the suspension related to product labelling and beef already in transit was safe.

Labelling noncompliance issues occurred in 2017 when meat processors faced similar action from China.

They were resolved within months and permits were reinstated.

There has been talk from China about economic consequences for Australia's push for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus.

The country is Australia's biggest international beef customer by volume, taking about 29 per cent of total exports.

Mr Wilson said the politics were a matter for Minister for Trade Simon Birmingham and the industry was focused on producing and selling a quality product.

"We're just selling beef to a consumer, and there's plenty of them around that want the product," he said.

"Demand is outstripping supply at the moment."

On Tuesday, Mr Birmingham confirmed the licence suspension of the Australian meat processors related to a labelling issue.

"The reason given for this suspension relates to instances dating back over more than a year of minor technical errors in relation to labelling or other technical requirements during this time," he said.

Given the unprecedented global health and economic impacts of coronavirus, he said there should be a thorough investigation.

"But it's in no way related, in no way related to the export arrangements for Australian beef or for Australian barley or for anything else," he said.