China lifts ban on U.S. beef products

On September 22, 2016, Chinese authorities announced the conditional lifting of a 13-year import ban on some U.S. boneless beef and beef on the bone.

The removal of the ban applies to cattle that are under 30 months old, according to a joint statement issued on September 22, 2016 by the Ministry of Agriculture and the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

The authorities said China would allow imports of beef that comply with China’s traceability and quarantine requirements.

China has banned imports of most U.S. beef since 2003, partly due to the concerns over the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as “mad cow disease.” The lifting of the ban will be subject to the completion of detailed quarantine requirements, which will be announced at a later date, the statement said.

On September 20, 2016, Premier Li Keqiang told business groups in New York that China would soon resume imports of U.S. beef.

Li’s remark regarding Chinese shoppers soon having a greater choice of beef sparked a rally in U.S. cattle futures, which closed at just under 1% higher at US$1.085 per pound at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on September 21, 2016.

U.S. cattle futures fell to a six-year low in September 2016 as supplies have expanded in the country, with a glut of cold storage beef, and China offers a potential outlet, The Wall Street Journal reported.

In the first six months of 2016, China imported 295,721 metric tons of beef, jumping 60.8% year-on-year. The value of imported beef reached US$1.3 billion, up 48.3% year-on-year, according to the General Administration of Customs.

Because of rising feed prices, limited grazing land and the breeding cycle, China’s cattle-raising sector lags behind consumer demand, resulting in higher beef prices in the past five years, according to a report by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

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