US, China Set for Beef Import Discussions

US & CHINA - US Department of Agriculture officials are scheduled to meet their counterparts in China next week as both nations prepare for the resumption of US beef exports to the mainland on 16 July.
calendar icon 2 June 2017
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In May, the US reached new trade deals with China that at least partially open market access for a variety of industries, including beef, financial services and energy.

"I expect that the talks will focus on the final details of the access protocols (requirements) for US beef and perhaps any remaining issues related to plant certifications," Derrell Peel, a professor at Oklahoma State University told China Daily in an email on Wednesday.

He believes that China will insist on some requirements for US beef.

"I expect that access will have requirements for source verification as well as the exclusion or limitations of production technologies, especially beta agonists (growth promoting feed additives such as ractopamine) and possibly synthetic growth hormones," Professor Peel said.

It appears that Beijing is likely to require producers to document the locations where cattle raised for export to China are born and slaughtered, according to the USDA.

Ted Schroeder, a professor of agricultural economics at Kansas State University, said the lifting of the ban will be an important development for the US beef industry.

"US beef is produced for a higher quality, higher marbling market than the mostly grass fed beef produced by China's existing major import country sources," Professor Schroeder said in an email. "Canada is the only significant supplier to China of higher quality grain fed beef and the market potential for supplying grain fed beef to China from the US will gain momentum."

Professor Schroeder said if US exports to China increase quickly, US beef prices would increase a bit until the beef supply is adjusted.

"Once US beef producers respond to these increased prices for cattle resulting from the exports and expand cattle production, the US consumer would see prices largely return to levels prior to the export market development," he said.

Professor Peel said that he doesn't expect a specific quota or legal limitation to US beef imports, but he believes that the requirements China places on US imports will inherently limit the amount of US beef in China.

"I believe the Chinese market has very significant potential for US beef in the long run, but will be a work in progress and something of a moving target initially," he said.

Professor Schroeder said Australia, New Zealand and Uruguay are the largest beef exporters in China now. China banned US beef in 2003 after an incident of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease in the state of Washington.

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