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China's Beef Imports Forecast to Increase in 2015

09 March 2015
BordBia

CHINA - In February 2015, the Chinese Government approved access for Irish beef, creating opportunities in one of the largest and fastest growing markets, according to Cathy Zhou from the Shanghai office of Bord Bia – Irish Food Board.

Following impressive growth rates in Chinese beef imports over the past three years, Business Monitor International (BMI) forecasts official 2015 volumes to increase 12 per cent compared with 2014 levels.

As the shortage of beef in China is believed to be structural, and to remain until at least 2018, demand for imported beef will continue to be strong.

In 2014, official China frozen beef imports reached over 295,000 tons, a slight increase over 2013.

At present, only six countries are permitted to export beef to China with varied levels of access: Australia, Uruguay, New Zealand, Argentina, Canada and Costa Rica.

Australia remained the largest official imported beef supplier to China in 2014, with 45 per cent market share.

Uruguay maintained the second largest imported beef market share in China, at 30 per cent. New Zealand beef continued to benefit from a preferential tariff compared to Australia’s, as Chinese imports of New Zealand beef increased 14 per cent, which also represents a 14 per cent share of the official imported beef market.

Over time, Australian exporters will gain a boost from the recently signed FTA between the two countries.

The potential for the beef market in China is huge.

Chinese consumers eat small amounts of beef, 4.5kg per capita in 2013 (weights on a carcass-weight basis), which is nearly half of the world average of 8.1kg, while consumption in Ireland is over 19kg per capita.

But the beef demand keeps rising across China, and the rising demand for beef will not been matched by Chinese supplies.

It is expected that by 2020 per capita consumption of beef will reach 6kg in China.

Chinese cattle slaughter declined by 3.7 million head from 2008 to 2013, an 8 per cent decline.

Chinese agriculture is fighting for resources (feed, land and water), and one solution is to allow more beef imports.

Moreover, China’s middle class has recently been estimated at near 300 million, and is expected to grow to 620 million by 2022.

This newfound demand for beef will rise in coming years.

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