China and US celebrate reopening of beef market

By Oscar Rousseau contact

- Last updated on GMT

USDA secretary Sonny Perdue (centre) led celebrations for the return of US beef to China
USDA secretary Sonny Perdue (centre) led celebrations for the return of US beef to China

Related tags: International trade, Beef

US beef is back in China after a 14-year hiatus and senior meat figures including agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue marked the occasion in quintessentially American style: by eating a giant steak.

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue was the highest-ranking official at an event in Beijing, China, marking the first return of US beef to the country since a 2003 case of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) president Craig Uden and vice president of the China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO) Luan Richeng joined Perdue in slicing a beefy cut of prime rib.

On behalf of President Trump and the people of America, we want to say thank you to our great customers here in China,​” Perdue said. “We want to respect your market and assure you that these products coming in are safe, wholesome and very delicious.

He added: “To those men and women who go out in the cold and birth those calves, we want to thank you for what you do to make this day possible. I am convinced that when our Chinese friends taste this tasty, wholesome, healthy and safe US beef, they’re going to want more of it. So you all better get some more cows.​”

NCBA president Craig Uden, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and Luan Richeng, vice president of COFCO Group
NCBA president Craig Uden, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and Luan Richeng, vice president of COFCO Group

NCBA​ president Uden said that while regaining Chinese market access was a massive step forward, he warned the government to not “mess up​” talks on other global trade deals that could weaken the US beef position.

Restoring US beef access to China has been a top priority for many years, and we are excited to have the opportunity to provide Chinese consumers with safe, tender, and delicious US beef once again.

But we still have a lot of work to do, like negotiating a bilateral trade agreement with Japan that puts us on even ground with our competitors, and ensuring that the renegotiation of NAFTA​ [North American Free Trade Agreement] doesn’t mess up the great deal we’ve had with our consumers in Canada and Mexico for years.​”

‘Extremely pleased’

After the ceremonial cutting of US prime rib – part of the first shipment of US beef to arrive in China – Perdue travelled to Shanghai to launch beef in China’s commercial channels.

Joining him was Greg Ibach, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, and Joel Haggard, US Meat Export Federation​ senior vice president for Asia Pacific, who helped launch a US beef promotion at Chinese retailer City Super.

USMEF senior VP Joel Haggard welcomes USDA secretary Sonny Perdue at Beijing ceremony
USMEF senior VP Joel Haggard welcomes USDA secretary Sonny Perdue at Beijing ceremony

It has been a long road back for US beef in China and USMEF is extremely pleased to see such great enthusiasm for its return,​” Haggard said.

Buyer interest is very strong, and we are excited about the opportunity to work with US exporters and future customers in China to build a solid foundation for US beef in this dynamic market.​”

China has become one of the world’s largest beef importers with spend rising from $275m in 2012 to $2.5bn last year.

Related topics: Meat

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