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China’s growing appetite for Australian cheese

China’s growing appetite for Australian cheese article image

China’s middleclass are fast developing a taste for cheese – and Australian dairy farmers are the big winners.

China’s cheese imports were up 47 percent year-on-year during the first ten months of 2014.

China imported 56,028 tonnes of cheese between January and October 2014, far more than the 47,316 tonnes imported during the whole of 2013, according to Chinese market research firm CCM.

The main beneficiaries of China’s newly-acquired taste for cheese so far have been New Zealand, Australia and the US, with Europe’s cheese makers trailing behind.

New Zealand remains China’s preferred source of cheese – imports from New Zealand during January-October 2014 totalled 24,013 tonnes, a 44 percent increase over the same period in 2013.

However, Australia is catching up fast – its total cheese exports to China rose 78 percent year-on-year to 15,189 tonnes – and its exports are likely to be boosted further in 2015 thanks to the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

Imports from the US also increased, rising 27 percent year-on-year to 10,084 tonnes. New Zealand now exports more than twice as much cheese to China as the US, and the gap between Australia and the US has widened from 593 tonnes in 2013 to 5,105 tonnes in 2014.

Strategic advantage

China is steadily developing a taste for European cheese – imports from France, Italy, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands all rose by 25 percent or more year-on-year – but in absolute terms this is a drop in the ocean. The total volume of imports from the top five European nations added up to just 4,696 tonnes, less than one fifth of the amount imported from New Zealand.

China is currently importing cheese from the US, New Zealand and Australia at an average of $US4.71/kg, $US5.10/kg and $US4.69/kg respectively, as opposed to $US8.14/kg from France, $US8.27/kg from Italy, and $US8.51/kg from Denmark.

This suggests European suppliers are currently focusing on retail products.

Also, US and Australasian suppliers hold strategic advantages over their European competitors, including New Zealand’s (and from 2015, Australia’s) market access due to its Free Trade Agreement with China, and lower freight costs for New Zealand, Australian, and West Coast US suppliers.

Source: Food Magazine

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