China has witnessed the rapid growth of the quantity of slaughtered cattle. During 1991 to 2011, the annual quantity of slaughtered beef cattle reached the historic high 47,750,000 heads from 13,039,000 heads. The rapid growth mainly resulted from the booming slaughter and processing industry in the corresponding period. From 1990 to 2016, beef production in China increased from 1,256,000 tons to 7,170,000 tons. At present, China is the third beef producer after the U.S. and Brazil, with its beef production accounting for over 10% of the global production. In addition, the proportion of China’s beef production in the national meat production rose from about 5% in 1990 to 8.4% in 2016.
According to CRI, the demand for beef products will keep rising as the livelihood of the Chinese residents rises and their dietary pattern improves. The beef production in China won’t grow rapidly due to the long period of beef cattle breeding. With the rising income level and the changes of dietary habit of the Chinese residents (the popularization of Western food etc.), the demand for beef per capita will significantly rise in the coming ten years, bringing about the rapid growth. Until the end of 2016, the annual consumption of beef per capita was below 7 kilograms, less than the half of the global level.
According to CRI, the export volume of beef was always larger than the import volume before 2010 because the market price of beef in China had long been below that of the developed countries. However, the price of domestic beef rose rapidly since 2010 due to the increasing demand in China. The market price of beef exceeded 3,000 USD/ton in 2010, which was much higher than that of the international market. The quality of domestic beef was below the international level, thus China began to import a large amount of beef from Canada, Australia, Brazil etc. China has become the net importer of beef since 2012. The net import volume of that year reached 49,000 tons, and the import volume kept rising annually.
According to CRI, the legal import volume of beef in 2016 reached 579,800 tons, increasing by 22.4% compared to 2015, and the import value exceeded USD 2.5 billion. In 2016, the major import sources of beef were Brazil, Uruguay, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina etc. Among that, Brazil was the important legal source, exporting frozen beef to China valued for USD 765 million. The actual import volume of beef is much larger than the legal import volume if the smuggled beef from India, the U.S., Brazil, etc. is taken into account. The actual import volume in 2016 was estimated to be above 1 million tons. In addition, China imports a huge amount of beef sweetbreads every year.
China began to regulate the imported beef when mad cow disease outbreak in 2011. The Ministry of Agriculture of China banned beef from the U.S. after the outbreak of mad cow disease in Washington State in 2003. The import of beef grew rapidly during the ten years when beef from the U.S. was banned. In 2003, the last year that China imported beef from the U.S., the annual import value of beef was only USD 15 million, but the import value of 2016 was over USD 2.5 billion.
On May. 12th, 2017, the officials from the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Commerce of China announced the ten consensuses reached by the U.S. and China on agricultural product trade, financial service, investment and energy etc. On top of the list is the consensus that the Chinese government will permit importing beef from the U.S. as soon as possible, no later than Jul. 16th, 2017. The Chinese government announced to suspend the import of beef from Brazil since March, 2017 because of the beef safety problems. According to CRI, the beef imported from the U.S. will strike those imported from Australia, Brazil, etc.