Hunter wagyu beef farmers Steve and Liz Binnie will lose a lot of business over China's suspension of beef exports from Australia.
But the Binnies say the Morrison government should keep pushing for an independent inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.
China has imposed a ban on four large Australian beef abattoir plants - three in Queensland and one in NSW.
The Binnies are affected by the ban as they use one of the affected plants - Northern Co-operative Meat Company in Casino in northern NSW.
Binnie Beef runs about 3000 cattle on a 2500-hectare wagyu beef farm at Mirannie Station, near Singleton. They also have a warehouse in Newcastle.
The Binnies said 95 per cent of their customers were from China.
"We are used to dealing with the Chinese and many of them are lovely people," Mr Binnie said.
"However, we don't think Australia should get bullied by the Chinese Communist Party."
China's move to suspend beef exports from the four plants follows Prime Minister Scott Morrison's call for an independent inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.
China's Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye recently expressed frustration over Mr Morrison's call for an inquiry.
Mr Jingye had suggested that Chinese people may question their consumption of Australia's wine and beef, along with education and tourism services.
Mrs Binnie said China appeared to be "delivering on what they threatened".
"I assume they're hoping we'll put pressure on our government to stop calling for an inquiry, but we back ScoMo [the prime minister]," Mrs Binnie said.
"It's simply about protecting ourselves and future generations from pandemics. It shouldn't be controversial that Australia wants an inquiry."
China's move on beef followed news that it planned to introduce an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham rejected suggestions that China's move on beef was related to the government's calls for a COVID-19 inquiry.
"I think right around the world, people would expect that when hundreds of thousands of people have died, millions of people have lost their jobs and billions of people have had their lives disrupted, of course there should be a thorough investigation and inquiry," Senator Birmingham said.
"But it's in no way related to the export arrangements for Australian beef or for Australian barley or for anything else."
Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon said it was a worry that "we may be getting just an initial taste of the economic costs of mismanaging our relationship with Australia's most important trading partner".
"We must be robust in our defence of Australia's national interest, but we must never forgo our interests abroad in the name of chasing votes here at home," said Mr Fitzgibbon, who is shadow minister for agriculture and regional and rural Australia.
"I fear that's what has been happening over the course of the last few years. Our farmers are suffering as a consequence."
More than 30 per cent of Australian beef exports to China are expected to be affected by the ban.
"Collectively it's a massive hit on the beef industry," Mrs Binnie said.
"I do find it interesting that Twiggy Forrest's abattoir and processing plant hasn't been affected - clearly they want other things from him, mainly iron ore."
Mr Binnie said his company hoped to continue to do business with the Chinese "because there are lots of wonderful people in China".
He said inquiries for their beef had been "building back up again" since China came out of lockdown.
"Five years ago our trade to China was very small, so they are a recent player. If we lose them, so be it," he said.
"The US is having a heap of problems with their supply lines because of COVID. So it wouldn't take much to send beef to the US.
"Even still, we want to stay friendly with China, but not to the point where we sweep anything under the carpet."
Mrs Binnie urged people to buy beef directly from farmers.
Mr Binnie said many farmers would be affected by China's move.
"But most farmers are used to getting their teeth kicked in by the climate or middle men, so we're pretty tough and can handle a lot of blows. They would not want to see us get bullied by China," he said.
Mr Birmingham said the government was "notified late yesterday [Monday] that four Australian meat establishments have been suspended by Chinese authorities over issues related to labelling and health certificate requirements".
"We are concerned that the suspensions appear to be based on highly technical issues, which in some cases date back more than a year," Mr Birmingham said.
"We will work with industry and authorities in both Australia and China to seek to find a solution that allows these businesses to resume their normal operations as soon as possible."
The Australian Meat Industry Council said China was Australia's number one market for beef by volume [about 300 kilotonnes in 2019]. This represented about 29 per cent of Australia's total beef exports.
The meat council was aware that China had "strict requirements for technical matters, including labelling, and the Australian meat industry takes these concerns exceptionally seriously".
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