of China Australia Food Security Cooperation Initiative (CAFSCI)

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Analysis of socio-economic and agribusiness developments in the Chinese beef and cattle industry

Overview of Project

The main aim of this project was to gain a comprehensive overview of the recent substantial changes in the Chinese beef and cattle industry. An important objective was to help Chinese and Australian beef industry officials formulate strategies and policies to take advantage of the recent developments in the Chinese industry.

Beef production in China expanded more than 15-fold between 1978 and 1994. This astonishing rate of increase was far greater than that of the pig or poultry sectors. Chinese beef grew into an enormous industry by world standards; at the time this project began China had 123 million cattle producing 3.3 million tonnes of beef per annum. The industry was modernising and commercialising at a remarkable pace, and in recognition of this the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture designated beef a major area of research.

The sudden growth and change in the beef sector was having major effects on the traditional production and distribution system, as well as on rural development in certain parts of China. Not all of the effects were necessarily beneficial. There was an urgent need to develop policies and strategies at the local, regional and national levels to guide the future development of this important new source of protein. Sensible handling of the beef industry was regarded as critically important for the future sustainable development of China’s pastoral regions.

Small feedlots were starting up in China and likely to become increasingly important. However, most existing feedlots were small-scale individual enterprises with generally low levels of technical and managerial expertise. The long experience of Australia in beef production was regarded as an asset to both countries. "

Key Outcomes of Project

In the course of undertaking a comprehensive analysis of the socioeconomic and agribusiness aspects of developments in the Chinese cattle and beef industry the project researchers examined many specific areas and grouped them into various dimensions of the analysis. Development was a central component of the project, and the main focus was the two-way relationship between industry development on the one hand and rural incomes, government revenues and other social issues on the other.

The regional dimension became a key aspect of the project. Researchers identified the spatial distribution of the cattle and beef industry as a crucial theme, and incorporated issues of regional comparative advantage, integration and development.

Agribusiness impacts were a major part of the overall project. The team analysed how overseas agribusiness interests could help improve marketing channels and supply chains to assist industry and rural development.

The project made a strong contribution to the study of environmental aspects of the beef industry. Whilst Chinese decision-makers emphasised the positive but not the negative environmental effects of industry development, both were explored in the project.

The main forms of project output were publications and an ‘end-of-project’ workshop. A large number of publications appeared in both English and Chinese, with emphasis placed on ensuring that key results were published through widely available Chinese sources. Publications were diverse, taking the form of substantive research reports and papers as well as conference papers, the intent being to disseminate and peer-review findings of the research in the widest possible way.

The list of publications also included many student theses associated with the project. While none of the eight students received direct assistance from the project in terms of salaries or research expenses, they benefited through access to project information and personnel, participation in fieldwork interviews, and other indirect benefits from loose association with the project. Conversely, the project gained much from their contributions by allowing specific areas to be covered in much greater detail than would otherwise have been possible.

The study produced a database of contacts throughout the Chinese cattle and beef industries that contains in excess of 300 contacts and a reference database of over 500 references pertaining to the study. Another important project-initiated resource is a catalogue of field reports that present an unedited record of the 400+ interviews.

The project forged closer links between the various participants within the Chinese beef industry and enhanced the research capability of the collaborating Chinese institutes. The outputs also alerted Australian industry to the likely trade opportunities that are emerging as the Chinese industry seeks to continue its modernisation. Although the Sino-Australian beef trade is small, the developments in China could markedly alter the nature of the North Asian beef market, which is one of Australia’s most important outlets. This project provided important economic information about this for the Australian beef industry."

Project Dates

01 Jan 1997 - 30 Jun 2000


Chinese Academy of Social Sciences - Rural Development Institute - China
Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences - Institute of Agricultural Economics - China
Ministry of Agriculture - Department of International Cooperation - China
University of Queensland - Australia


Professor John W Longworth



07 3365 9015

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