Investment banker David Williams has urged Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie to push to sell Australian pork to China to help ease a shortage as a result of its swine flu problem and get in ahead of any US-China trade deal.
Pork is not on the list of agricultural products from Australia which can be exported to China.
But in an interview with The Australian, Mr Williams, the founder of investment bank Kidder Williams, which specialises in agricultural deals, urged Senator McKenzie to lobby China to open up the market for Australian pork.
US President Donald Trump said on Friday that China would be buying some $US40bn to $US50bn in agricultural products from the US as part of a trade deal that could be finalised by the two leaders at the APEC meeting in Chile next month.
Mr Williams said China had shown it was open to quick changes in its import restrictions as it sought to buy more pork from the US to cope with the fallout from its devastating swine flu problem.
“We need to urgently amend the list of agricultural products that can be sold to China,” he said.
“The Chinese are desperate for pork given the cull in the herd in China from African swine flu.
“The Chinese are so desperate they recently said they would be amending the US import list to allow US pork into China at a concessional rate.”
He said this move was made in September at a time when the US and China were “still sparring partners” and had not reached a potential deal for China to buy more US agricultural products.
“This is an indication of how an urgent application to allow Australian pork into China might get a quick reaction,” he said.
Australia should also look at asking the Chinese whether it could help rebuild the Chinese pig stocks once the swine flu problem was over.
“They are slaughtering their herds in China and they clearly can’t get enough,” he said. “They are releasing stocks from their stockpiles but it is not enough.
“Pork producers in Australia have been losing money for three years and access to China would kick start them in a positive way.”
He said China’s push to change its regulations to buy more pork from the US showed that it could “turn on a sixpence” if it wanted to amend its agricultural import licensing arrangements.
China is expected to buy more pork from the US under the trade deal now being finalised.
But he said Australia should move quickly to push China to be allowed to sell pork into its market ahead of any US-China deal which could also cushion the impact of any deal on other Australian agricultural exports to China.
“This could be a big opportunity for Australia to not only make some short term gains but to use it as a basis for having a market going forward,” he said. “Even though it wont be anywhere near what China needs it would help give the Australian pork industry a boost.
“The government has a small window before the trade deal with the US to try and capitalise on it.
“Achieving this would bring a short-term benefit to Aussie farmers that are put on a new list but also lessen any downside when the US and China finally cosy up to each other again,” he said.
The world’s largest pork consumer, China has already been forced to cull more than a million pigs since the outbreak of swine flu more than a year ago. Agricultural specialist Rabobank says China could lose as much as 70 per cent of its domestic pig herd this year as a result of the disease. China has 350 million pigs or a quarter of the world’s stock. With pork prices skyrocketing in China, Beijing released some 30,000 tonnes of pork from its official stockpiles in the lead up to the October 1 national day celebrations and holiday time.
Mr Williams said Australia should also push to expand the list of products sold to China to include blueberries and other fruit.