U.S. finalizes talks to resume beef exports to China

Taste-testing during a Canadian Beef Advantage Seminar in Shanghai in 2013. (Canada Beef via YouTube)

Chicago | Reuters — Final details are in place to allow U.S. exporters to resume beef shipments to China, U.S. officials said on Monday, allowing companies to prepare for their first shipments in 14 years.

After concluding talks with Beijing, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said U.S. producers must track the birthplace of cattle born in the United States that are destined for export to China.

In another rule, U.S. beef shipments to China must come from cattle less than 30 months of age (UTMs), according to the USDA. The meat should not contain the growth promotant ractopamine, found in the drug Optaflexx, made by Eli Lilly unit Elanco.

China banned U.S. beef in 2003 after a U.S. scare over BSE. Previous attempts by Washington to reopen the world’s fastest-growing beef market have fizzled out, but the quick progress in finalizing terms for shipments has raised hopes of U.S. farmers.

Washington and Beijing finalized details on export protocols ahead of a deadline, set under a broader trade deal last month, for shipments to begin by mid-July.

China’s beef imports increased to US$2.5 billion last year from $275 million in 2012, according to USDA.

The U.S., before 2003, had been China’s largest supplier of imported beef, with a market share of 70 per cent, USDA said.

Canada, which also lost access to the Chinese market in 2003 over BSE, in 2010 was the first BSE-affected country to resume exports to China.

Canada, now considered a “controlled risk” country for BSE, is today able to ship only frozen beef to China, which also bans meat from Canadian cattle fed with Optaflexx.

China also requires that its imports of Canadian beef come from UTM cattle and can be tracked to the farm where they were born.

— Reporting for Reuters by Tom Polansek.



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