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China, Australia perfect partners in dairy dining boom

Updated: 2014-08-19 11:01

MELBOURNE - Australian dairy industry is keen to reinforce its already well-developed relations with its Chinese counterpart and further explore the market, and the signing of a free trade agreement will be mutually beneficial, an industry expert told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Charlie McElhone, group manager of trade and industry strategy at Dairy Australia, the national services body for local dairy farmers and the industry, said that as the world's leading dairy importer, China's dairy market is still growing at an impressive speed.

"In 2013, China imported over 2.1 million tons of dairy worth $8.8 billion, making it the largest importer of milk products in the world. China's dairy imports have increased over 45 percent in the past five years and this trend is set to gather pace," he said before heading China for the 2014 China Dairy Industry Association (CDIA) annual conference in Shanghai.

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China's dairy industry is still trying to recover and rebrand itself from a series of food safety scandals while the baby boom in recent years also added up to a soaring appetite of imported dairy products.

McElhone said that China should diversify its dairy products suppliers and Australia has long been playing not just a supplier but also a supportive role of China's domestic dairy industry.

"As the need for overseas produced dairy in China grows, the requirement for a diversified group of reliable international suppliers of the best quality is becoming urgent. Whole Milk powder for instance, is supplied almost solely from one country - New Zealand - which garnered 41 percent of total Chinese dairy imports in 2013," he noted.

"The cooperation between our dairy industries extends in other directions. For over a decade, Australia has worked closely with the Ministry of Agriculture, sharing technical information in the biennial China-Australia Dairy talks and assisting with domestic production," he said.

Dairy Australia has attended the CDIA annual conference since 1995 and has been working closely with the association on the Dairy Australia China Scholarship Program since 1999. During that period, Dairy Australia's has brought over 220 Chinese scholars to Australia to get first-hand knowledge and valuable experiences of local dairy industry.

McElhone expressed the hope of taking the chance of this year' s CDIA conference to reinforce the strong relationship between the Australian and Chinese dairy industries,

"As the relationship further deepens, the completion of a Free Trade Agreement will be a significant milestone that will benefit both the two countries," he said.

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