THE Australian Government has confirmed that import restrictions imposed by China against five Australian meat processing establishments have been lifted with immediate effect.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt released a statement on 30 May addressing the news of the lifted restrictions on the five establishments, meaning a total of eight beef processing facilities have now had suspensions lifted, whilst two facilities still have suspensions in place.

The bans were imposed between 2020 and 2021 amid diplomatic tensions between the Australian and Chinese Governments, a move that Minister Watt says resulted in a $20.6 billion reduction in exports.  

The restrictions imposed by China involved not only some of Australia’s major beef exporters, but bans were also imposed against agricultural exports such as barley, wine and lobster.

The restrictions on the five exporters are the latest to be lifted, after three beef exporters were permitted to resume in late 2023, along with barley and wine exports earlier this year.

The Chinese Government began progressively removing the import impediments since May 2022, around the time of the most recent Australian Federal Election.

Minister Watt said “China’s progressive removal of impediments since then, including today’s announcement, means less than $1 billion worth of exports remain impeded”.

“The lifting of impediments has already had a real-world impact – to the tune of more than $11.5 billion – for Australian barley, cotton, oaten hay, wine, coal, copper ores and timber logs. The Australian Government’s approach is to cooperate with China where we can, disagree where we must and engage in our national interest” he said.

David Jochinke, President of the National Farmers Federation, said of the announcement “This is another important step in the right direction towards improving our trading relationship with one of Australia’s major partners. Australian agriculture is a trade dependent sector, exporting more than 70% of what it produces and China”.

“We will continue to work with the government as it progresses the resolution of remaining trade impediments for the meat and rock lobster sectors” he said.

Patrick Hutchinson, CEO Australian Meat Industry Council, said “This is a great outcome not only for these companies but the clients some of them process for, and the thousands of farmers and feedlots they support through cattle purchase”.

“As a matter of priority, we will continue working with the Federal Government and China on not only having the remaining two exporters’ suspensions lifted, but also restarting the new opportunities for other Australian red meat businesses who have been waiting for access to the Chinese Market” he continued. The lifting of the restrictions comes some months after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Trade Minister Don Farrell visited China in November 2023.