After a 13 year absence, U.S. beef may again be heading for China.
The Trump administration announced on May 12 that following one more round of technical consultations between the United States and China, China will allow imports of U.S. beef. The imports are set to begin as soon as possible, but no later than July 16, 2017.
The challenge, however, appears to be in the details. In a conference call with reporters, Craig Uden, National Cattlemen's Beef Association president, and Kent Bacus, NCBA director of international trade and market access, said many details remain to be worked out in the technical consultations.
They are unsure what the requirements will be for hormone use or if products from animals age 24 months or older will be accepted. They are unsure if China will demand traceability, which the NCBA emphasized is voluntary in the United States.
Bacus said they have tried to emphasize to the Chinese the safe beef production systems that operate in the United States. They have done this through numerous visits to ranching operations in the United States and other education.
NCBA is eager to enter the Chinese market and reach the country's 1.4 billion consumers and a growing middle class that is consuming more protein. They suspect the market will consume tongues, rounds and chuck rolls, products that don't sell as well in the U.S., but move well in Asian markets, Bacus said.
A lot of protein is coming back on the market as the cattle industry recovers from the drought, Uden said, and the protein needs to go somewhere. China represents 12% of the world export market for beef and a huge opportunity for U.S. beef producers.
All trade is important, Uden said, adding $300 a head in value.
Uden praised Trump for his efforts to regain market access for U.S. beef and he pledged to continue working with the administration as the process moves forward.