The Northern Territory's Primary Industry Minister will tour China next week with an agricultural delegation which includes Luke Bowen, from the NT Cattlemen's Association, and Grant Fenton, from the NT Farmers' Association.

The trip will be a chance for the Territory to network, build relationships and promote the north of Australia as a potential supplier of food and live cattle to the world's most populated country.

Mr Fenton says mangoes are the biggest food crop grown in the Northern Territory and the industry can build on market access which already exists.

"We've got 50,000 trays of mangoes this year going into Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, which sounds a lot in terms of what we might eat here, but in the Chinese market it's not a lot," he said.

"So there's a small amount of produce heading to China and there's an opportunity to get more there, I believe."

The boxed beef trade to China has boomed this year, becoming Australia's third largest destination for beef and tipped to exceed 110,000 tonnes in 2013.

But Mr Bowen says the live trade has some challenges ahead, especially for the northern cattle industry.

"Historically Australia has exported a lot of live animals to China in dairy terms, so mainly dairy heifers and some breeding cattle out of southern Australia," he said.

"Northern Australia hasn't been a part of that market because there's protocols around Bluetongue (virus), which has stopped the import of cattle out of northern Australia,

"So part of the discussion that needs to be had (during this trip), even though Bluetongue is present in China, is to try and look at these protocols to allow access for not only boxed meat, but also live animals to feed this trade."

China's current sensitivity to Bluetongue virus rules out trade for a huge section of Australia's cattle industry, in a line that stretches from Broome in Western Australia to Sydney.

The upcoming "Northern Territory" trip to China is not only about selling produce, but also encouraging investment in northern agriculture.

It's understood the NT Primary Industry Minister, Willem Westra van Holthe, will be meeting with the chair of Shanghai Zhongfu, the company which is investing heavily in the second stage of the Ord Irrigation Scheme, and has stated publicly that it wants to develop the Northern Territory side of the Ord scheme as well.

Selling live cattle to China was a major talking point at this year's Northern Australia Beef Industry Roundtable. For more on that story click here.


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