WA is one step closer to doubling the State's sheep meat sector by 2025, thanks to the latest joint commitment initiated by the State Government and industry.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed last week by Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province to grow annual WA sheep meat exports to China by 500,000 head.
Mr Baston said the WA's sheep industry will be able to help meet growing demand from China thanks to the MoU.
"The initial milestone has been set at an additional 500,000 lambs per year but our industry and the market has the capacity for a much higher figure beyond that," Mr Baston said.
"This marks an important undertaking by industry and government towards continued value chain development, which will increase industry confidence and support farmers to grow their business here in WA."
China was the largest destination for WA sheep meat (lamb and mutton) in 2013-14, at $53 million.
Sheep Industry Leadership Council chair Rob Egerton-Warburton said SILC already aims to grow the lambing industry by 200,000 per year, due to the large demand for lamb at the moment.
He said the industry will need to continue to grow for an extra 500,000 to be possible, as the current growth is already being absorbed into markets.
"What we don't know is over what period of time they are expecting the 500,000 to come," he said.
"For that to happen, there has to be some incentive from the market.
"To get another 500,000 on top of existing markets and growth is going to take a bit of incentive I think.
"The State has a huge capacity to grow its lamb supply.
"If the incentive is there, growers will produce them.
"This could be a positive push for sheep producers."
The MoU was signed by representatives from Meat and Livestock Australia, WA processor V&V Walsh, Chinese importer and distributor Heilongjiang Grand Farm Group and the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) and builds on a long-standing relationship and joint venture between V&V Walsh and Grand Farm.
"This MoU supports a significant venture examining how new integrated value chains can be designed and developed to increase the opportunities and farmgate return for the WA sheep meat industry," Mr Baston said.
Acting Regional Development Minister Mia Davies said the signing coincided with a sheep meat market insights tour to China, involving leading WA sheep producers, DAFWA, Meat and Livestock Australia and industry representatives.
"The tour is part of the $10m Sheep Industry Business Innovation project, made possible by the State Government's Royalties for Regions program, to build industry capacity to supply new markets and drive positive outcomes for industry, regional communities and the Western Australian economy," Ms Davies said.
This project builds on the Government's unprecedented investment in the agricultural sector under the $300m Seizing the Opportunity Agriculture initiative.