FRONTIER International Agri-South East Asia operations manager Ashley James said establishing port facilities for live cattle exports in the Pilbara would save industry in the long-term.
Setting his sights on the South East Asian market Mr James said the region had an opportunity to capture these markets if live export was based locally.
“The opportunities for the future is China and the big saving for industry is cutting down on freight,” he said.
“If we are able to export out of Port Hedland, pastoralists can save money on trucking 1600 kilometres down south.
“There are some efficiencies for pastoralists and us as exporters.
“We are a day closer.”
Mr James said the Chinese market presented a significant opportunity for the Pilbara, as the short haul from Port Hedland cut costs.
“The sleeping giant everyone is talking about is China – this is the real opportunity for the Pilbara,’’ he said.
“We have a protocol, it is difficult, but we have it.
“There have been three shipments that have gone into China so far, one by sea and two air freights.
“As exporters we are spending a lot of money and time in China.”
Mr James said while there was a push to take advantage of the opportunity, there were still hurdles to overcome including yarding requirements and quarantine.
“From non-bluetongue areas it’s a seven day quarantine but it can run smoothly,” he said.
“I think, south of Broome, China will end up being a market for those types of cattle.
“It has been purely Angus, but I am convinced that will change as they won’t be able to get the numbers of Angus into China and they will have to open up the breed.”
Mr James said in previous years when export was available to pastoralists from Port Hedland, they were attracting big numbers.
“In 2001, about 41,000 head of cattle were exported out of Port Hedland,” he said.
“There were some good numbers up until 2009.”
Mr James said the Pilbara Ports Authority would need to re-establish trust with exporters that was lost during the mining boom.
“Mining came in and cattle went out the back door and exporters had to move to other States or come south,” he said.
“Exporters will come back to Port Hedland, we have no problem with coming back.
“South East Asia is a high turn over, low-margin game and getting caught one day in a port blows everything (in terms of being economical).”
The real opportunity was the stocking density change above the 26th parallel.
“From Geraldton to Port Hedland the difference is about 400 head,” Mr Jones said.
“We can put an extra 400 head on a ship going from Port Hedland north, rather than going from Fremantle.
“That 400 animals gets a free ride, which allows us exporters to offer more money for cattle and be more efficient.”
Mr James said there was a string of benefits for pastoralists exporting from Port Hedland to China
“We are bluetongue free, have great access to a good port and it will be a short haul voyage being under 10 days,” he said.
“The cattle breeds in the Pilbara, Murchison and Gascoyne will be what China wants.
“The area is clean and green and part of what could be Australia’s biggest market.”
Mr James said land values would increase and put live export back on pastoralists’ doorsteps.
Looking at it from an exporters’ point of view, Mr James said the only concerns were herd numbers, a need for quarantine facilities for at least 4000-8000 head and being able to supply to specifications.
Mr James said the alternative option to open up Onslow port as an export port would also be a positive opportunity for the Pilbara.
“Onslow, Karratha, anywhere, exporters will look at,” he said.
“It has to be made easy and fast.
“As an exporter, where-ever it is, I want to be able to come in, load my boat and have it done in 24 hours.
“It doesn’t matter where it is, as long as it’s above the 26th parallel – it’s a real opportunity.”