Slow growth expected for beef exports to China

While the lifting of the ban on U.S. beef exports to China is something for producers to celebrate, the growth of those exports is expected to take a while for several reasons. David Anderson is a professor and agricultural economist and serves on the management team of the Agricultural & Food Policy Center at Texas A&M.

“I think that we’re going to see some high end stuff go, some real expensive beef go there because they have fancy restaurants and they’ve got rich people too, and I think we’ll see those kinds of products go. I think we’ll see some lower value products go there as well.”

Anderson believes that U.S. beef exports to China are going to grow fairly slowly.

“We’re starting at zero, so in percentage terms it’s going to be some rapid percentage growth, but the volume’s going to be fairly small, for a couple of reasons. One is, we export to Hong Kong and have for a long time. Some of that beef has been transported, once it goes to Hong Kong, it’s across the bay and gone to China. And so it may be we see might less exported to Hong Kong and more to China directly, to Mainland China directly.”

Anderson also says that U.S. beef tends to be more expensive than some of the other beef China can buy.

“The reason our beef is more expensive is because we have a higher quality beef that’s going there, so our beef that we might compete in that meat case with Australian beef, but our stuff’s higher quality, which is why it takes a higher price.”

The agreement with China also contains some specific requirements for the beef to qualify to be exported.

“With the rules that they require for beef to be imported into the country or exported from us, that limits the supply that we have that’s eligible to go there. So that’s another reason for those exports to grow kind of slowly.”

But Anderson stresses that this is an exciting development for U.S. beef producers.

“It’s always better to have more buyers than less buyers, and that works for the auction markets where you take your calves all the way to all the way to international markets as well."