The Casino meatworks is taking on the Chinese market.
The Casino meatworks is taking on the Chinese market. Jacklyn Wagner

Meatworks reveals ambitious China expansion plan

IT'S taken six years, but the Casino-based Northern Co-operative Meat Company has opened an office in China to cater for the growing demand.

The Chinese market is the meatworks' fastest growing market, and is expected to rival the US within the next five to 10 years.

Chief executive Simon Stahl said beef exports to China were about 12,000 tonnes in 2012.

That has now skyrocketed to 100,000 tonnes.

Currently, China is the meatworks' fourth largest trading partner for beef.

"On that trajectory we believe they will rival our largest market, which is the US, within the next five to 10 years," Mr Stahl said.

"US and Japan are the top two trading markets (but) our first focus is China because it's what we would consider a developing market.

"At times, there is political tension between China and Australia and we are of the view developing business and commercial relations in China is crucial to the two-way trade."

Based in Shanghai, the NCMC's new office is the result of about 12 months of planning.

Mr Stahl said China had become a very big destination for Australian beef exports over the past five years.

"We've been trading up into China and it's been successful to date, however we had a couple of issues in market in China last year in terms of access," Mr Stahl said.

"So we've opened an office there and we've found the right people to open up the office - some local Shanghaiees are staffing the office."

He said the basic three objectives in the new office is to build relationships, market the brand of NCMC and offer in-market assistance to our exports.

The board gave approval for the overseas project late last year, and they opened the office last month.

"Business registration is in progress but we've been able to open the office with our staff space," Mr Stahl said.

"The primary objectives are to build in-market relationships with various stakeholders including legislative bodies, the MLA, Australian state and federal agencies who are up there.

"We go to China regularly on trade business, so it's also to assist ourselves or our other customers who operate through our business, and it's to assist importers and import agencies.

"It's about linking the commerce between China and Australia."

In terms of the cost of the project, Mr Stahl said it wasn't insignificant, however he said "as an expense to grow and build confidence in the China market it's very well worth it".

"It's not easy to establish up there - there's a lot to learn," he said.

Mr Stahl has been travelling to China for past six years and attends every quarter.

"So we've been in China for the past six years since our first trade show up there, so it's taken six years to open up an office," he said.

"It's not easy and you need to be in the market for a long time before you work out the best way to approach it."