John Phipps: Is China Hungry for More U.S. Ducks?

11:42AM Feb 17, 2020
China trade
Will China want more U.S. duck in the Phase One agreement? John Phipps answers a viewer's question in Customer Support.
( MGN )

John Hochmuth from Federalsburg, Maryland, has an interesting question:

“I thought they eat a lot of ducks in China. Are they on the list of things they're going to buy in the US? Couldn't they use all we can provide? Just curious.” 

Thanks for the question, John. This falls under the category of "Things I’ve Never Thought About." After a little research here is what I’ve found:

First of all, all the numbers I could gather lump duck and goose meat together. The Phase One agreement does not mention this category, other than a promise to modify existing phytosanitary standards on processed meat and poultry that were in practice not about food safety, but protectionism. Now as to consumption, you are right. China is by far the world’s largest consumer of duck and goose meat. In 2018, the Chinese ate 5.5 million metric tonnes. The next largest market, France, consumed 233,000 tonnes or about 4% of China’s total. The third largest consumer is Myanmar at 174,000 tonnes. So yes, China is a huge market for that protein…only China is also a huge producer as well, churning out, you guessed it 5.5 million tonnes of the meat allowing a tiny bit for export. The same goes for France and Myanmar. Basically, everybody eats their own ducks and geese. In fact, the entire world market for duck and goose meat is only about 300,000 tonnes. To compare, the US produces less than 1% of China’s output, about 50,000 tonnes, so it would hard to seriously compete in China.

We may now be more informed on the duck and goose meat market than virtually all other Americans. If you can’t win a bar bet with this nugget of trivia, you’re not trying. But it also illustrates one big fallacy in our collective view of China. While 1.4 billion people, a fifth of the world’s population – can be an enormous and lucrative market, remember there are two formidable competitors: 1. The Chinese themselves. If China can continue to modernize their agriculture, move people off farms, and achieve even tiny economies of scale, they will be able to satisfy more of their domestic demand. 2. The rest of the world can do the math too. With pressure like Australian beef and Hungarian duck and goose meat (yep, they are a player in that tiny market), we will have to earn our way in the Chinese, and any other, foreign market.

USFR 02/15/20 - Customer Support