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Iowa Entrepreneur Facilitates Delivery of U.S. Beef to China

After a 13-year ban, American beef is back on the menu in China. The embargo was imposed in 2003 when mad cow disease was traced to an animal in Washington state. As the door to beef trade once again opens to the world’s second-largest buyer of beef, an Iowa start-up is working to fill the country’s growing appetite.

“China imports 800,000 tons of beef annually, primarily from Brazil, Australia, and Argentina,” says Justin Kean, executive VP of business development, Global Agriculture Company, Ltd. (GAC). “It is the fastest-growing economy in the world, and its middle class is leading the pace. Yet, the country doesn’t have the natural resources to keep up with demand. The U.S. has the ability to sell more beef to China’s growing economy.”

Through exclusive partnerships with a number of buyers (including the largest state-owned food producer in eastern China’s six provinces), GAC recently exported six containers (228,000 pounds) of U.S. beef.

“Bright Food Group is responsible for feeding over 400 million people, which includes a global luxury hotel chain and China’s largest e-commerce food company,” he says. “This first shipment is the largest single shipment of whole-cut beef sent to China from the U.S. in 14 years, and it is nearly 22% of the year-to-date quantity exported to China. The group is eager to purchase more.”

GAC President Tim Johnson says the inaugural delivery will build market confidence in China. 

“This is just the beginning of a sustainable U.S. beef supply to China,” he says. “Our buyer wants to reach 2,000 containers annually. We are only scratching the surface of what we can export to China.”

About The Company

Company: Global Agriculture Company, Ltd.

Founders: Tim Johnson, Julia Qian, Xie Fang

Headquarters: Norwalk, Iowa, with an office in Shanghai, China

Background: When former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad was nominated as the U.S. ambassador to China, Tim Johnson was already conducting business in an unrelated field in the country. His partners knew Branstad was close to President Xi and asked if Johnson knew Branstad and could arrange a meeting. The two met in January and February 2017, and all indications pointed to the beef embargo guidance being set that summer. With all of the Chinese distribution contacts in place, the Global Agriculture Company, Ltd. (GAC) was formed. Beyond beef, the company has also started working on trading Napa Valley wine, Iowa whiskey, and other ag-related products with China.

Funding: GAC has brought on two Chinese partners, so it hasn’t had to raise any outside capital to launch the company.

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