Reopening China beef market shows promise

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The reopening of China to importing U.S. beef provides great market potential for U.S. agriculture, according to an analyst with the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last week that it had reached an agreement with Chinese officials on final details of a protocol to allow the U.S. to begin exporting beef to China for the first time since 2003.

AFBF economist Katelyn McCullock said the agreement gives U.S. agriculture access to one of the fastest-growing beef markets in the world.

“We’ve seen imports of beef rise in China from in 2003, the last time the U.S. was in that market, about $70 million, to over $2.5 billion worth of beef imported last year to China,” McCullock said, “and so the market potential is such that this could be a very big deal for beef producers.”

The market has changed since the U.S. last exported beef to China, she said, and that may provide a higher export value potential for U.S. farmers and ranchers.

“They used to import a lot more variety meats and we’ve really seen that change over to much heavier demand in muscle meats. Muscle meats tend to be of higher value, and so there’s potential there to have not just more exports, but also higher-value exports,” McCullock said.

Although the announcement will offer a chance to increase demand for U.S. beef, McCullock cautioned that developing the market will take time.

“There are still a few things that need to happen before we end up shipping that first shipment,” she said, “and there are also some production changes that might need to occur if producers want to participate in this market.”

Permission is granted for reprinting this article with credit to the California Farm Bureau Federation.