China’s beef imports continue to climb in 2015

BEIJING: While China’s slower rate of economic growth has been a major global news story in 2015, it hasn’t dampened the country’s growing appetite for beef. China’s beef imports seemed to plateau last year, with both volume (317,119 metric tons) and value ($1.35 billion) increasing only slightly over 2013.

But through the first 10 months of this year, China’s imports showed renewed momentum, with volume up nearly 40% from a year ago and value soaring by 58% to $1.8 billion.

In October alone, China imported more than 44,000 metric tons of beef valued at $228.5 million. This was the fifth consecutive month that China’s imports exceeded $200 million, with the year-end total likely to approach $2.25 billion.

Restoring access for U.S. beef continues to be a top priority for U.S. trade and agricultural officials as well as the U.S. industry, as the cost of being absent from this market continues to mount. Lack of access to China is estimated to cost U.S. producers more than $100 per head, and this problem is compounded by sluggish demand in other regions.

“From 2009 through 2014, annual global beef export value from all supplying countries more than doubled to $38 billion,” explains U.S. Meat Export Federation President and CEO Philip Seng. “But this growth streak will end in 2015, with export value expected to decline by about 7% compared to last year. Given these circumstances and the expanding U.S. cattle herd, it is even more imperative that we have access to the world’s fastest-growing market.”

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack raised the issue of beef access at the most recent session of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT), which was held in Guangzhou, China, Nov. 21-23. Following these meetings, Vilsack said discussions on beef access will continue, and he is hoping to see action “over the next 30 to 60 days.”