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Gina Rinehart launches wagyu brand bound for China's top restaurants

Gina Rinehart hold a box of her new premium beef brand 2GR.
Gina Rinehart (centre) shows off her new wagyu beef brand "2GR".

ABC News: Dominique Schwartz

Australia's richest woman Gina Rinehart is forging new ties with China, hot on the heels of the fierce battle for the Kidman cattle empire which she purchased last year.

Today she launched her wagyu brand 2GR at Warwick in south-east Queensland, with the first shipment of the frozen boxed beef loaded and ready for export to China.

"The cattle are recorded for whole-of-life traceability using their DNA collected at birth and are grain fed on locally produced ingredients," she said.

"We hope that this shipment will be the first of many in the decades to come."

This move comes as her Chinese business partner in Kidman, Shanghai CRED, has commissioned the first live export shipment from Australia to China.

Industry experts said it was an indication of Mrs Rinehart's plans for some of the livestock on the Kidman properties.

For Mrs Rinehart's boxed beef brand, the 12-tonnes of frozen full-blood wagyu is bound for top-end restaurants in Shanghai and Beijing, where premium steaks can sell for up to $400.

Rinehart's China connections open up 'channels'

Beef industry consultant Timothy Kelf said the businesswoman's mining connections in China bode well for her beef line.

Boxes of Gina Rinehart's new wagyu beef brand 2GR.
Analysts say Mrs Rinehart's mining ties with China will help her beef business.

ABC News: Dominique Schwartz

"Even if she's in the mining industry, by virtue of having connections in aspects of China it channels you towards the right people to deal in the meat business," he said.

"She'll be able to get into channels of delivery with that product into some of the best hotels and restaurants I am sure because the connections she has in the other parts of her business."

The wagyu brand is separate from S Kidman and Co which Hancock Prospecting bought last year with one-third joint venture partner Shanghai CRED.

Mrs Rinehart has stressed in the past that she is deeply committed to honouring and preserving the Kidman heritage and brand, and has previously highlighted her family's historical ties with Sir Sidney Kidman.

Shanghai CRED, Mrs Rinehart's Kidman co-owner, has also been busy establishing supply lines into China — not for packaged beef, but for the emerging live cattle market.

China's rise as a live trade market

Over the weekend, Australia's first live shipment to China left Portland in south-western Victoria under a new health protocol agreement between the two countries.

It will deliver 1,200 head of black Angus to Shanghai CRED to distribute.

"I don't see China as being a big live trade market in the next year-and-a-half to two years," corporate agribusiness analyst David Williams said.

"But it will certainly be a market once we start to get our animal herd up here and our cattle prices fall from near-record highs.

"These early shipments will be testing the market and testing the logistics … and clearances.

"I think it bodes well for probably two years down the track when our stock starts to get back to what it was previously."

Mr Kelf, an expert in China's beef market, said he'd be "very surprised" if some Kidman stock was not live exported to China, particularly because of the part ownership with Shanghai CRED.

He said some of the properties are situated in parts of the country where there are not export restrictions.

"From the Kidman point of view, she's [Mrs Rinehart] in a very good position to be able to take advantage of opportunities that exist in the mass market in China."

While Mrs Rinehart's beef business is tiny compared with her mining interests, she has proven she is serious about expanding her agricultural investments, and is in it for the long haul.

"Food, like mining is not for the faint-hearted, especially when you're in the Top End: it's driven by weather, disease and international markets and it's still a risky game so it needs people with big kahunas," Mr Williams said.