Beef market encouraged from China lifting ban

Associate Editor

(Nov. 1, 2016) Regional beef producers responded with optimism in October to recent news that China has lifted its ban on U.S. beef, reopening a gargantuan export market that could boost cattle value here.
“It’s a good thing for the U.S. beef market,” said Jason Carter, executive secretary of the Virginia Cattlemens Association. “The U.S. beef market right now is increasingly depending on beef exports.”
China’s agriculture ministry lifted the ban late last month following a review of the U.S. supply system, the USDA said. The Asian market has been closed off to American producers since mad cow disease was discovered in a 2003 case, which caused U.S. beef and beef product exports to dip. At that time, Chinese beef imports totaled only $15 million or 12,000 tons, $10 million of which was from the United States.
China’s beef imports totaled $2.3 billion last year, and the USDA believes it will pass Japan as the second-largest beef importer after the United States this year.
“This announcement is a critical first step to restore market access for U.S. beef and beef products,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “We look forward to prompt engagement by the relevant authorities for further technical discussions on the specific conditions that will allow trade to resume.”
The change in Chinese policy is unlikely to affect the U.S. cattle industry for another year or so, Carter said, though he’s happily anticipating any boost to meat value it might yield. Virginia, like Maryland, is a feeder cattle-producing state with 1.5 million cattle presently, he said. Each year, 850,000 of them are sent out of state to feed lots for finishing.
The past seven years include the strongest period for American agricultural exports in history, with sales of U.S. products passing $1 trillion between fiscal year 2009 and the present, the USDA said. The mad cow disease discovery dropped U.S. beef exports (excluding beef products) from $3 billion in fiscal year 2003 to $1.1 billion the following year. Since then, the U.S. beef industry has recovered and then some: Beef exports totaled $5.8 billion to 112 countries in fiscal year 2015, the department said.
And China’s demand hasn’t been tallied yet.
“American beef producers stand to benefit hundreds of millions of dollars a year in added value to the beef industry,” Carter said. “It benefits that whole country.”