China ends complete ban on beef from US as imports explode

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 6:53am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 6:53am

China removed a ban on shipments of some US beef products, opening up the trade for the first time since 2003 as the country sees a surge in imports of the meat.

The ban on imports of US bone-in beef and boneless beef for livestock under 30 months has been removed, with conditions, effective immediately, according to a statement on Thursday from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine. Imports must follow requirements under China’s traceability, inspection and quarantine systems, it said.

China halted imports of US beef in 2003 after a case of mad cow disease was found in Washington state. The country is the world’s second-biggest beef buyer after rapid growth over the past decade created the world’s second-largest economy and an expanding middle class that can afford more protein in their diets. China is already the world’s biggest pork consumer.

The re-opening of China to US beef may provide new opportunities for packers including Tyson Foods Inc., the largest US meat processor, and Cargill Inc., the largest US ground beef maker. Cargill didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail requesting comment.

“We applaud the efforts of USDA that have led China’s Ministry of Agriculture to lift its ban on US beef,” Springdale, Arkansas-based Tyson said in an e-mailed statement. “This is a positive step forward and we hope that the two governments can negotiate a strong access agreement for this important market in the near future.”

China increased imports of beef by 51 per cent in the first seven months of 2016 compared with last year because of slower domestic production caused by thin margins for Chinese cattle producers and the availability of cheap imports, Rabobank International said in a report.

Beef and veal imports will jump 24 per cent this year to 825,000 tonnes, according to US Department of Agriculture data. That’s twice the purchases in 2013.

China’s consumption will increase 3.4 per cent to 7.59 million tonnes, exceeding production of 6.79 million tonnes, the data show.

Surging demand had been a boon to Australian producers after a drought increased cattle slaughter and supply available for export. The country has recently been losing market share to Brazil, which was allowed to resume shipments to China last year.

Philip Seng, president and chief executive officer of the US Meat Export Federation said in a statement Thursday that China still has to negotiate with the US Department of Agriculture about conditions that will apply to US beef exports entering the market.

USMEF is waiting for “details about the remaining steps necessary for the market to officially open and for US suppliers to begin shipping product,” Seng said in the statement.