US ap­pears to be on track to re­sume beef ex­ports to main­land

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICA -

Now that the US Agri­cul­ture Depart­ment has a new sec­re­tary, the Amer­i­can cat­tle in­dus­try could be closer to ship­ping beef again to the Chinese main­land.

In a news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day, Sonny Per­due, sworn in as agri­cul­ture sec­re­tary on April 25, said he was “con­vinced” that if Chinese “start eat­ing US beef, they’re go­ing to want more of it”.

Per­due said he has dis­cussed the sit­u­a­tion with Com­merce Sec­re­tary Wil­bur Ross and “we think we’re mak­ing good progress in that area”.

Last month, US Se­na­tor Steven Daines of Mon­tana trav­eled to China and brought four steaks from the ranch of Fred Wacker, ac­cord­ing to the Wil­lis­ton Her­ald of North Dakota. He gave the steaks to Premier Li Ke­qiang as a ges­ture to re­open Chinese mar­kets Amer­i­can beef.

China halted US beef im­ports in 2003 af­ter a Wash­ing­ton state dairy cow was iden­ti­fied as hav­ing bovine spongi­form en­cephalopa­thy (mad cow dis­ease).

“They are con­vinced we have a safe, re­li­able sup­ply of beef,” the se­na­tor said. “There are some fi­nal, tech­ni­cal is­sues re­lated to trace­abil­ity that we are sort­ing out with the Chinese.”

When Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump met at Mar-a-Lago in Wil­liam Hen­nelly to early April, ex­panded US beef ex­ports were said to be part of a 100-day trade ac­tion plan the lead­ers agreed on. In Septem­ber, China lifted a ban on ship­ments of some US beef prod­ucts.

“With­out ques­tion, restor­ing US beef ac­cess to China is a top pri­or­ity for the US beef in­dus­try,” Kent Ba­cus, direc­tor of international trade and market ac­cess at the Na­tional Cat­tle­men’s Beef As­so­ci­a­tion, told China Daily.

“We hope to build upon the pos­i­tive mo­men­tum re­sult­ing from the re­cent meet­ing be­tween Pres­i­dent Trump and Pres­i­dent Xi so that our friends in China can en­joy the safe and de­li­cious beef that we pro­duce and en­joy in the United States. Amer­ica’s cat­tle­men are look­ing for­ward to the op­por­tu­nity to de­velop a long-last­ing re­la­tion­ship con­sumers.”

The US has plenty of com­peti­tors when it comes to ex­port­ing beef.

Dur­ing a visit by Premier Li in late March, Aus­tralia be­came the first coun­try per­mit­ted to sup­ply chilled or fresh meat to China, an agree­ment ex­pected to in­crease Aus­tralia’s beef ex­ports to China by $400 mil­lion a year.

China ended a three-year em­bargo on Brazil­ian beef in May 2015, im­posed be­cause of a mad cow out­break in 2012. Brazil has sup­planted Aus­tralia as the big­gest seller of beef to China, boost­ing ex­ports by 65 per­cent in 2016.

Li an­nounced that China would start im­port­ing iced fresh beef and lamb from New Zealand, dur­ing a trip with Chinese there in March.

In Fe­bru­ary 2015, the Chinese gov­ern­ment an­nounced a tem­po­rary ban on im­ports of Cana­dian beef, shortly af­ter Canada con­firmed its first case of mad cow since 2011. The ship­ments were re­sumed in April 2015.

China stopped im­port­ing beef from the Euro­pean Union 16 years ago be­cause of mad cow, but an­nounced last year that it would lift a ban on beef from Ire­land. China has cho­sen to ne­go­ti­ate with in­di­vid­ual coun­tries as op­posed to the EU as a whole.

France, the Nether­lands, the UK, Bel­gium and Italy are op­ti­mistic ex­ports can re­sume soon. Hun­gary reached a frozen beef ex­port deal with China in 2014, and made a ship­ment to Shang­hai this past Jan­uary.

Pork is still the most-con­sumed meat in China, but per capita con­sump­tion is fall­ing while beef de­mand is in­creas­ing.

“It is dif­fi­cult to es­ti­mate a dol­lar amount im­pact (for the US) un­til we know what beef prod­ucts the trade pro­to­cols will al­low,” Josh Maples, as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor and live­stock ex­ten­sion econ­o­mist in the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­tural Eco­nom­ics at Mis­sis­sippi State Univer­sity, told China Daily. “Gain­ing market ac­cess to the Chinese main­land is an im­por­tant out­let for US cat­tle pro­duc­ers.”

US ex­ports of beef also could get a boost by the con­fir­ma­tion of Iowa Gov­er­nor Terry Branstad as US am­bas­sador to China. Branstad went be­fore the Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee on Tues­day in his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing.

“Mad cow dis­ease is long since gone in this coun­try, and there is no rea­son why the Chinese should con­tinue to re­strict Amer­i­can beef,” Branstad said in Fe­bru­ary. “I want to serve it in the em­bassy, and I cer­tainly want to do what I can to try to con­vince the Chinese leadership to do that sooner rather than later.”

Se­na­tor Daines put it this way: “They have 1.4 bil­lion cus­tomers there. It’s not just about to­day, but long term. Kids in Mon­tana grow­ing up on farms and ranches — who are they go­ing to be sell­ing to? We are lay­ing the ground­work for the fu­ture of Mon­tana agri­cul­ture.”

Con­tact the writer at williamhen­nelly@ chi­nadai­lyusa.com

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