Economic review

Nebraska has stake in beef exports

2017-07-17 10:29:00 (Beijing Time)         China Daily

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"People always want to be first into the market, but the reality is we were first, and China is really a bigger notch than anything we've done because it's such a large market," he said.

Nebraskan ranchers have been preparing for beef trade with China to resume since it was announced last September that the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture lifted its ban.

Beef was one of the main focuses of a trade mission that Ricketts led to China late last year. Nebraska also has hosted many Chinese delegations over the years that have looked at cattle ranches and feedlots, according to Nebraska Cattlemen, a cattle rancher association.

The state had about 6.45 million cattle as of January and is home to 19,000 ranches, as well as Greater Omaha Packing and Tyson Foods. There are four USDA-approved meatpackers for shipments to China: Tyson, Greater Omaha Packing, JBS USA and Creekstone Farms Premium Beef.

The Chinese mainland potentially represents a $2.6 billion market for U.S. beef products. The U.S.' current top foreign markets include Japan, Mexico, South Korea and Canada, according to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

Troy Stowater, president of Nebraska Cattlemen and managing partner at Diamond 6 Feeders in West Point, Nebraska, said the U.S.' re-entry to the Chinese market will be a "slow buildup".

"I don't think it happens overnight, and there are some requirements on [the beef] that will take some time to fulfill-but we're extremely grateful to be back in the Chinese market," he said.

Stowater was part of the trade mission to China with Ricketts and said the Chinese importers and distributors he met were eager to get U.S. beef products in their market.

"If we're able to move ounces per capita into that market, it's a big deal for the United States. The other thing is, our reputation for quality and food safety has already been established in the marketplace," Stowater said.

The resumption of the beef trade between the U.S. and China is expected to diminish competitors' shares of the Chinese beef market, which has seen most of its imports from Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Before the 2003 ban, 70 percent of China's imported beef came from the U.S.. Australia, which has a strong foothold in the Chinese market, is coming off a long drought that affected its ability to export, presenting an opportunity for U.S. ranchers and processors.

"U.S. beef is high-quality beef, with our grain-fed production and that's in demand," said Jay Wolf, owner of the Wagonhammer Ranch in Barlett, Nebraska, and former president of Nebraska Cattlemen. "There're not a lot of places in the world that can compete with the United States in raising that kind of meat, so I think we have the product."