South Australian meat exporter inks $60m deal with Chinese distributor

In a significant move bolstering the trade ties between Australia and China, South Australian premium meat exporter Thomas Foods International (TFI) has clinched a deal potentially worth $60 million annually with a leading Chinese food distributor. This development marks a notable stride in the strengthening relationship between the two nations.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), embodying a mutual commitment to expanding business prospects, was signed following a business delegation to China, which included TFI’s managing director, Darren Thomas, and CEO, Tony Stewart, alongside Premier Peter Malinauskas.

Under the MoU, TFI aims to export red meat worth $AU30 million by the end of 2024, with plans to explore further business avenues beyond this target. A significant boost to this target, up to $AU60 million annually, is anticipated if TFI’s new beef processing facility in Murray Bridge secures a China market listing. This facility, designed to surpass China’s stringent market standards, symbolises TFI’s dedication to fulfilling the demands of the Chinese market.

The 2018 fire that ravaged TFI’s Murray Bridge facility posed a challenge to the company’s production capabilities. Despite this setback, TFI sustained its international trade relationships, a testament to its resilience and commitment to rebuilding with a state-of-the-art facility.

This agreement comes on the heels of positive developments in Australia-China trade relations. Earlier this year, China lifted trade impediments on Australian barley and hay, followed by an agreement to consider lifting tariffs on Australian wine, imposed since 2020. These steps, along with recent visits to China by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and other federal ministers, have helped to reestablish trade with China, Australia’s and South Australia’s largest export market.

Nick Champion, reflecting on the evolving trade dynamics, stated, “As the Chinese Government continues to review tariffs on Australian products, we are seeing more barriers falling as we seek to re-engage and re-establish trade opportunities with China.” He lauded the agreement as a testament to the collaborative efforts at government and industry levels to fortify these ties. “I congratulate Thomas Foods International on the work it continues to undertake to ensure this relationship is not only maintained but thrives – as more South Australian businesses seek to leverage off these trading opportunities,” he added.

TFI CEO Tony Stewart expressed his delight in signing the MoU, which he believes reflects TFI’s longstanding commitment and expertise in the Chinese market. “Thomas Foods International has had a long and successful history of doing business in China. The backbone of this has been the strong relationships we have developed with trusted and highly capable partners,” Stewart remarked. He emphasised the significance of the Murray Bridge facility, noting, “Completing our world-class beef processing facility at Murray Bridge, (Establishment 8883) is particularly exciting as it sets a new standard for the Chinese market. If approved for export, it would represent more than a business opportunity; it would be a transformative step forward for the Australian red meat industry. For South Australia, it would provide a significant boost in trade, job creation, and overall economic prosperity.”