FROZEN boxed beef has been shipped from Townsville for the first time in over a decade, in a move that could open up new export opportunities for producers.
About 18 tonnes of frozen beef was shipped from the Port of Townsville to Asia on Friday.
Mackay abattoir, Thomas Borthwick & Sons (Australia) Pty Ltd, which processes around 2400 head of cattle a week, mainly for Chinese and Japanese markets, is undertaking a trial from Townsville as a northern supply chain alternative.
Borthwick's general manager Jason Delaney said the company exported about 30 containers a week.
"Townsville would give us a lot more flexibility and the distance is closer so overall it's going to give us a better turnaround,'' Mr Delaney said.
"Long term the potential is massive for us especially if we can get a rail service through to Townsville.
"There is also the potential for a saving in shipping costs on every container."
Mr Delaney said he hoped another shipment would leave from Townsville before Christmas.
"While there's plenty of opportunity it's still a long road ahead," he said.
Port of Townsville trade and business development manager Maria James said attracting frozen beef for the export market was a key component in the port's refrigerated container growth strategy and one of several targeted products.
"We are the closest port for Asian markets, which makes the trip quicker and ultimately cuts costs for Borthwick's,'' Ms James said.
"This is a great initiative and follows the recent refrigerated melon trial from the Port of Townsville which has wide-ranging implications for the region's growers by boosting the capacity and sustainability of north Queensland's horticultural sector.
"Preliminary data was very positive but while we await the final results, the port is continuing to build confidence in sea freighted logistics and encouraging growth in refrigerated container exports."
Ms James said she hoped chilled beef exports could follow on from the frozen beef trial.
"There is certainly enormous potential ahead for all rural producers," she said.
"Increasing container export volumes across the sector will benefit the whole region economically."