China’s Ministry of Agriculture and General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine have announced that the country’s import ban on US beef, in place since 2003, has been lifted.
Beef older than 30 months will still be banned by the Chinese and other approved cuts will have to adhere to China’s traceability and quarantine regulations.
Nonetheless, the unexpected move is a major development in the global beef industry.
“While this is an important first step in the process of resuming beef exports to China, US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) understands that China must still negotiate with US Department of Agriculture the conditions that will apply to US beef exports entering this market,” said USMEF president and CEO Philip Seng.
“USMEF looks forward to learning more details about the remaining steps necessary for the market to officially open and for US suppliers to begin shipping product.”
China's decision to lift its import ban on US beef was praised by the America's beef sector.
“This is great news for US beef producers,” said Kent Bacus, director of international trade for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
“While these initial reports are positive, we must continue technical negotiations and undergo the process of formally approving export certificates. China is already the world’s second largest buyer of beef, and with a growing middle class, the export opportunities for US cattlemen and women are tremendous.”
The next step is for the USDA is to work with Chinese counterparts to advance technical negotiations and formally approve export certificates.
“Our cattle producers are the best in the world at producing high quality beef,” said Bacus. “To continue to grow demand for our product, our industry relies on fair trade based on sound science. This latest announcement by China is welcome news and further highlights the benefits of trade in the Pacific, opportunities that will only be expanded by passage of the Trans Pacific Partnership.”
Despite the positive news,Albert Vernooij, Rabobank's animal protein analyst ,said the US will have to cut the use of hormone growth promotants (HGPs) in beef it exports to China.
“HGP-free is something that the Chinese government will strictly require,” said Vernooij. “So it will take some time for the US suppliers to adjust production system. This is similar to the US pork story where US producers are partly producing without the growth promoter ractopamine to tap the growing and profitable Chinese market. US beef producers need to spend some time to judge whether it makes sense to change the production system, just for the Chinese market."