Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued the following statement:
“I welcome the announcement from China’s Ministry of Agriculture that it has lifted its ban on U.S. beef following a recently concluded review of the U.S. supply system. This announcement is a critical first step to restore market access for U.S. beef and beef products. We look forward to prompt engagement by the relevant authorities for further technical discussions on the specific conditions that will allow trade to resume. True access to China’s beef market – consistent with science-based, international standards for trade – remains a top priority for the United States. The United States produces the highest-quality beef in the world, and China’s 1.3 billion consumers are an important market for U.S. producers. The Obama Administration and USDA will continue to press trading partners to eliminate unfair barriers to trade that hamper American farmers and ranchers.”
Following the discovery of a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in December 2003, U.S. beef and beef product exports fell. Since 2003, USDA has led a multi-agency, full-court press, dedicating significant resources to restore foreign market access for U.S. beef. As a result, U.S. beef shipments had regained pre-BSE volumes by 2011 and even reached record values by 2014. Another central element of the U.S. strategy to maintain and expand foreign market access is insistence on policies that are based on the guidelines of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Since January 2015, USDA has achieved recognition by 16 countries of our OIE negligible risk status for U.S. beef and beef products: Colombia, Costa Rica, Egypt, Guatemala, Iraq, Lebanon, Macau, New Zealand, Peru, Philippines, Saint Lucia, Singapore, South Africa, Ukraine, Vietnam and Brazil.
The past seven years have represented the strongest period in history for American agricultural exports, with international sales of U.S. farm and food products surpassing $1 trillion between fiscal year 2009 and the present.
U.S. Beef Exports Then and Now
In FY 2003, U.S. beef exports (excluding beef products) totaled $3.0 billion (0.9 million tons) to 112 countries. As a result of the December 2003 BSE case, U.S. beef exports fell to $1.1 billion (0.3 million tons) in FY 2004. In spite of some remaining restrictions, which USDA continues to prioritize, U.S. beef exports have recovered to pre-2003 levels. In FY 2015, U.S. beef exports totaled $5.8 billion (0.8 million tons) to 112 countries.
China’s Beef Market Then and Now
In 2003, China’s imports of beef totaled $15 million (12,000 tons), including $10 million from the United States. In recent years, China’s imports have risen dramatically, reaching a record $2.3 billion in 2015. In 2016, USDA forecasts that China will surpass Japan as the second-largest beef importer after the United States with imports estimated at 825,000 tons. Rapidly rising demand for beef has been fueled by middle-class growth and has made China the fastest-growing beef market in the world.