The resumption of American beef exports to China after a 14-year hiatus took another step closer after the U.S. Department of Agriculture said trade rules have been finalized.
The latest development was announced Monday by the USDA in a statement. It follows the agreement reached last month by the U.S. with China to promote market access for American products including beef amid a broader effort to reshape the trade relationship between the countries. China halted beef shipments in 2003 amid concerns about mad cow disease.
Beef destined for China must be sourced from cattle that were born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S., or animals that were imported from Canada and Mexico before being slaughtered domestically, the USDA said separately on its website. Cattle must be traceable either to their birth farm or, if initially imported into the U.S., to the first place of residence or port of entry.
"About 10 percent of U.S. cattle may meet traceability requirements," Derrell Peel, an agricultural economist at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, said in a telephone interview. "If we see a noticeable increase in sales volume by the end of the year, that will be promising. It takes time to develop trade."
Some trade groups and companies have been skeptical that U.S. beef exports to China will be significant. An executive at Brazil’s JBS SA, the world’s largest beef supplier, said last month that the deal won’t be a game-changer for the U.S. industry. The U.S. Meat Export Federation has said that U.S. shipments may see a slow start, while the market shows promise in the long term. There will be a period of adjustment and added costs involved with the new requirements, the group said in a Monday statement.
“We hope that by getting our foot in the door we can develop a long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationship with China,” Craig Uden, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said Monday in an emailed statement.