Can China ever become a reliable buyer of beef?


Coming off an incredibly strong year for beef exports, and looking ahead to the future, the global demand for North American protein continues to be very strong.

Just how strong the year ahead may be is contingent on several aspects, but Kent Bacus, senior director of international trade and market access for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, is optimistic.

How good was 2021? The U.S. exported about 15 per cent of its beef production for a total of about US$10.5 billion. That’s an impressive figure, Bacus says. Much of the success can be attributed to new and expanded trade agreements, includig those with Japan and Korea and the Phase 1 deal with China.

The bottom line is, the world, and China especially, wants North American protein.

“China is desperate for protein,” Bacus says in the audio below.

The Phase 1 agreement, brokered under the Trump administration, has been a real game changer for U.S. beef into the country.

Trade agreements don’t guarantee success, but they do create opportunities to clear up barriers to access and align regulations that may have been issues in the past. To that end, the Phase 1 agreement has more than delivered on its potential earlier than expected. Bacus says that the deal was estimated to be worth about US$1 billion within a few years, but already has been worth US$1.5 billion in the first two years.

But there are still some issues, including consensus on an MRL for ractopamine for example, and the road to China becoming a predictable and reliable market is still a long one.

Listen on for the full discussion on global beef trade with Kent Bacus, here: 

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