CHINA is asserting itself as a powerhouse for Australian red meat.
February beef export statistics are expected to break 10,000 tonnes, which would be a record monthly figure.
The boom is not restricted to beef, with China on track to take 15 per cent more lamb than last February.
It's welcome news for the red-meat industry, with other major markets buckling under the pressure of tough economic conditions.
China was already predicted to take more Australian beef this year but Meat and Livestock Australia said the country was "on track to easily exceed the 2013 forecast of 35,000 tonnes" and could even reach 50,000 tonnes this year.
That would make it the fourth-biggest market for Australian beef.
MLA chief economist Tim McRae said Chinese delegations had indicated to MLA the buying would continue.
"There is nothing in particular we are aware of that has caused the recent increase, but what we are hearing is that China wants safe, reliable product and that's what we can deliver," Mr McRae said.
China is taking predominantly secondary cuts, mainly brisket, manufacturing beef and shins and shanks, not the top-end chilled product.
But Mr McRae said this could flow on to China taking higher-quality beef in the future in an environment where domestic production was "tight".
Australia is not on its own; Brazil, the US and even New Zealand are eyeing off the burgeoning Chinese red-meat demand.
Australian lamb sales are also growing to China, which will take about 3600 tonnes this month.
Australian Meat Industry Council national processing director Steve Martyn said China offered significant potential for the export of beef and sheepmeat.
"There are still a number of market access issues we need to get right," Mr Martyn said.
These included the resolution of a tripe protocol, which had been "on the table for years", as well as mirroring a free-trade agreement similar to the one China held with New Zealand, which gave the latter an advantage in exporting sheep meat to China.
"China is a very important market and Australia needs to be on the front foot to resolve trade barriers to maximise potential," Mr Martyn said.