CHINA has followed through with flagged plans to resume importing United States beef, lifting a ban that has existed since mad cow disease was found in the States in 2003.
Australian beef exporters have take a pragmatic approach to the news, saying they supported free and open markets.
The US would no doubt take some market share in the long term but the fact Chinese consumers were increasingly demanding high quality, clean, green and safe, and chilled product was a bonus to Australia, they said.
An official statement from China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine overnight said the ban on imports of US bone-in beef and boneless beef for livestock under 30 months had been removed, with conditions, effective immediately.
Market analysts in Australia say it is expected technical details such as traceability, inspection and quarantine protocols will be nutted out quickly to allow US suppliers to beginning shipping product.
Commonwealth Bank agri commodities analyst Madeleine Donlan said China had moved more rapidly on this than what was anticipated.
“US meat packers have been saying ‘this is great news, but we’ll believe it when we see it’,” she said.
The bank’s agri commodities daily alert said looming administration changes in the US appear to be a good motivator for China deepening economic ties.
Beef processors who spoke with Fairfax Media this morning said Australia had still been competing with US during the 13-year ban as significant volumes came into China via grey channels.
Ms Donlan said it was difficult to put figures on the amount of beef smuggled over borders however US Department of Agriculture figures on volumes going into Hong Kong and Vietnam far exceeded the amount likely to be consumed in those countries.
Meat and Livestock Australia’s latest market snapshot on China shows it was the fourth largest export market for Australian beef in both volume and value last year.
In May, there was a very large drop in beef exports to China, down 41 per cent year-on-year, as competition from Brazil kicked in, particularly at the frozen lean end of the spectrum.
However, July saw Australian exports record a year-on-year increase, with MLA analysts pointing to Chinese authority crackdowns on grey channel business.
MLA marketers said the lifting of the ban on US beef to China was unlikely to change Australia’s policy of targeting high end markets and the chilled beef sector.
The fast-growing upper middle income bracket was where the opportunities lay for Australia.
MLA data shows Chinese beef imports grew a massive 1600pc in the five years to 2015.
In 2016, data from banks in Australia indicates China has grown beef imports more than 50pc year-on-year.