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Key Topic – China Beef Access

On Sept. 22, China’s Ministry of Agriculture and General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine have announced that China’s ban on imports of U.S. beef has been lifted. While this is an important first step in the process of resuming beef exports to China, USMEF understands that China must still negotiate with USDA the conditions that will apply to U.S. beef exports entering this market. USMEF looks forward to learning more details about the remaining steps necessary for the market to officially open and for U.S. suppliers to begin shipping product.

It is very important that USMEF takes a measured approach to this announcement and make it clear to all industry stakeholders exactly what it does – and does not – mean. As noted above, China’s lifting of the import ban is a very important first step in this process, but several steps still remain before exports can start moving to China. Please refrain from speculating about when the market will officially open and when U.S. product will be eligible to ship, because we simply do not know. It is also important that we do not speculate about the volume of U.S. beef China will take when the market opens, because that will depend greatly on the final eligibility requirements, which are still to be negotiated by the two governments.

This issue gained further attention following the recent meeting between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Media speculation heightened about U.S. beef regaining access to China, but the situation is essentially unchanged.

Please follow this guidance when speaking with any USMEF members, prospective buyers of U.S. beef or industry analysts. With regard to media, it is especially important that you direct all media inquiries on this issue to Joe Schuele at the Denver headquarters (jschuele@usmef.org or 303-226-7309). USMEF will be very reserved in its comments to the media, and all remarks will come from Phil Seng or Joe Schuele. The media has a tendency to “look ahead” on these matters and skip over the critical steps necessary for beef exports to resume, so it is important that all responses are managed carefully and handled consistently.

In the meantime China remains closed to U.S. beef, having never reopened after the first U.S. case of BSE in December 2003. For several years following the closure, China did not import large volumes of beef from any supplier. This began to change in 2012, and by 2016 China’s imports exceeded 600,000 mt valued at $2.6 billion. China’s leading suppliers are Brazil, Australia, Uruguay, New Zealand, Argentina and Canada.