DESPITE growing confidence, there is doubt about whether WA beef production can meet the needs of foreign markets.
WA Beef Council member and Dongara beef producer Craig Forsyth said that as the Asian consumption of protein grows, WA will only be able to supply a percentage to markets such as the Asian food bowl.
"With a number of people in Asia seeking more protein, I'm sure we won't be able to supply 100 per cent of it," Mr Forsyth said.
"But it's all about trading with everyone and making sure we maintain our quality and supply to what they need.
"We need to work on our supply networks and make sure we can maintain a continuity of supply."
Mr Forsyth said producers would need to increase their herd sizes to meet any increased supply for the export trade as well as the domestic market.
"The South West herd is static at the moment," he said.
"And up north, there have been a few bad seasons, because it has been so dry.
"But if there is an average to good seasons, they will be able to increase their production.
"Obviously we would need to produce more cattle, so if we can increase our herd, we can meet a greater demand."
Mr Forsyth said dry seasons and cattle production are only a few factors hindering our supply needs.
"In the South West (land division) it also depends on the economy," he said.
"It's a real issue in the South West land division on the economics of growing grain compared to producing cattle.
"Some farmers are wondering why have cattle in the first place, when grain is more profitable at the moment."
ANZ Banking Group director Paul Neesham spoke on behalf of the ANZ at a Perth agribusiness conference earlier in the month on global market trends in agribusiness and said as China's domestic production market declines, it was time for Australia to take up this opportunity.
"China consumes about 40pc of the world's pork and about 15pc of all the beef and that amount is growing," he said.
"The challenge is about increasing productivity."
Mr Neesham said it was a case of economics, as incomes rise people wanted to eat better so industry and business needed to be smart.
"There will be more than nine billion people on this earth in 30 years or so to feed, but how can we do it given the number of factors including trade and infrastructure, as part of the food security challenge?" he said.
"We need to be smart about increasing production, as well as smart in sharing."
Department of Agriculture and Food State Beef Leader Brad McCormick said it was difficult to estimate the potential size of the China live export market for WA.
"The potential value for the WA beef industry lies in the potential for the China live trade to offer an alternative market option and thus competition for available cattle," Mr McCormick said.
"This underpins the market driven beef industry development strategy."
WA's meat cattle herd numbered 1.94 million head in mid-2013, unchanged from 2012.
"The ability of the WA cattle industry to respond to building international demand for beef will be determined by the outcome in the supply and demand equation, and the degree of confidence that the supply chain generates from those market changes," Mr McCormick said.
"Should the right market and price signals eventuate then investment in herd building and production increases can be expected."
Mr McCormick said producers tended to respond to firm market signals as did exporters and product marketers.
"The WA beef supply chain has a history of responding to changes in market demand between 2007 and 2010 as Indonesian demand heightened for cattle imports live exports from WA increased 40pc in three years from 263,000 to 369,000 head," Mr McCormick said.
"Similarly for beef exports and on the back of strengthening demand from existing markets and the emergence of new markets, boxed beef tonnages increased 32pc from 25,000 tonnes shipped in 2012 to 33,000 tonnes in 2013, while in the same period live exports increased by 10pc."