The Trump administration’s announcement Thursday night that access to Chinese markets for U.S. beef will begin by July 16 is fanning the fires of optimism among U.S. cattlemen.
The U.S. has been locked out of the world’s largest beef import market for the past 13 years. Restoring access to China has been a top priority for a long time, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Craig Uden said during a press call Friday.
China banned U.S. beef in December 2013 after a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in a dairy cow was found in the U.S.
Restoring trade with China would give U.S. beef access to 1.4 billion new customers -- a fifth of the world’s population -- and a middle class that is larger than the entire population of the U.S., he said.
“This would give us the opportunity to grow. All trade is important, but working with China will be a huge benefit to the U.S. beef industry,” he said.
China represents 12 percent of the world beef trade and has a growing appetite for beef, he said.
Exports account for more than $300 per head of finished beef cattle slaughtered in the U.S., and that value will continue to grow with China in the market. In addition, NCBA expects China would be interested in the same beef products popular in other Asian countries -- products that don’t see high demand in the U.S. -- boosting the overall value of a carcass, he said.
China has seen tremendous growth in beef demand over the last five years, and there’s a lot of opportunity there for U.S. beef, said Kent Bacus, NCBA director of international trade and market access.
“There’s a lot of unmet demand in China. We’re looking forward to seeing just how high this demand can go,” he said.
Only one more round of technical consultations between the U.S. and China stand in the way of restored access. That round will determine the protocol for access, and it is yet unknown how much of the current U.S. beef production would be eligible.
But the U.S. beef industry has really tried to stress in meetings with the Chinese that it can address their concerns. China’s main concern is BSE, and the negligible risk status of the U.S. addresses that concern, Bacus said.
Traceability and the use of hormones are some of the issues that have come up in China’s negotiations with other countries. The U.S. has emphasized its safe production system, and most concerns have been addressed, he said.
Some of the leading countries that export beef to China’s do have mandatory traceability, but it’s part of that country’s requirements. The U.S. industry has some voluntary traceability programs but doesn’t want a mandatory program that would put overly burdensome restrictions on producers who choose not to produce beef for China, he said.
Uden said there’ll likely be some adjustments in U.S. production but the industry is entrepreneurial and will find a way if there’s value to be had.