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China Vows to Accept U.S. Beef After 13-Year Ban

After 13 years, China has finally lifted its ban on accepting U.S. beef exports. This announcement comes after China’s Ministry of Agriculture concluded a review of the U.S. supply system.

The country will only accept U.S. beef that comes from animals under 30 months of age. 

“China is already the world’s second largest buyer of beef, and with a growing middle class, the export opportunities for U.S. cattlemen and women are tremendous,” says Kent Bacus, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s director of international trade.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) is quick to note that the announcement is exciting, but China will still need to negotiate with the USDA to approve export certificates and agree to standards U.S. beef will need to meet to be accepted into China’s market.

China originally halted U.S. beef imports when mad cow disease was discovered in Washington state cattle in December of 2003.

What History and Data Tell Us

In 2003, the U.S. sent 11,500 metric tons of beef to China valued at $27.1 million, according to the USMEF. However, in 2003 China only imported 57,200 metric tons in total, and demand has grown exceptionally since then. In 2015, alone, the country imported 495,000 metric tons valued at nearly $2.4 billion, according to the Global Trade Atlas. 

“China’s 2016 imports are running well ahead of last year’s pace,” says Joe Schuele of the USMEF who calls China’s spike in demand for beef from 2012 to 2015 “extraordinary.” In just those three years, China upped beef imports by 424,500 metric tons.

“Our export markets are a great outlet for cuts of beef that are not traditionally popular in the U.S.,” says Dr. Phil Reemtsma, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association president. An example of this is the strong market for beef tongues in Japan. 

Check out Beef Is Bouncing Back for an idea of how the U.S. cattle herd and beef markets are holding up.

The announcement to begin accepting U.S. beef was made by China’s Ministry of Agriculture and General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine on September 22.