China may set up large pork and chicken operations in Australia as it strives to keep up a burgeoning demand for meat among Chinese consumers.
Paul Meggison and Roy Robertson, speakers at the Australasian Milling Conference in Melbourne last week, said they believed China would turn to investment in Australia as domestic factors forced the country's authorities to reassess national food production operations.
These factors include a shortage of land to build large piggeries and poultry farms as expanding cities encroach on rural land.
Dr Meggison, the general manager of Ausfarm Nutrition Products, at Bomen near Wagga Wagga, said China would need a huge increase in stockfeed as its meat industry expanded.
He estimated China would require about 275 million tonnes of milled feed - well up from its 2008 level of 107 million tonnes - to sustain its meat industry in 10-15 years time.
But rather than import huge amounts of grain to supply beef feedlots, piggeries and poultry farms, Dr Meggison and Mr Robertson, of Jaybee Engineering, Dandenong, believed Chinese companies were more likely to build their own operations in Australia and export back to China under their own brands.
Dr Meggison said China's rising affluence and population growth was driving an expanding local meat industry, which, in turn, was leading to a big increase in stockfeed demand.
He said meat consumption in China had quadrupled during the past 30 years to about 54kg a person each year.
That was nearly double the average meat consumption in Asia of 30kg/person/year and just less than half US per capita consumption.
Dr Meggison said that although pork remained the most popular meat consumed in China, chicken and beef were gaining in market share.
He said there could be opportunities for Australia to provide beef to China, most likely low-quality processing beef, but also good-quality prime beef as the wealth of the Chinese consumers increased.
He said there might also be an opportunity to export offal to China.