China’s Ministry of Agriculture has lifted its ban on U.S. beef that went into place in 2003 following the discovery of a cow with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the United States.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said it’s a critical first step toward restoring market access for U.S. beef and beef products into China.
“True access to China’s beef market – consistent with science-based, international standards for trade – remains a top priority for the United States,” Vilsack said. “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.”
In 2003, China imported $10 million worth of beef from the United States, a significant portion of their $15 million of beef imports. USDA forecasts that China will surpass Japan as the second largest beef importer – behind the United States – with imports estimated at 825,000 tons in 2016. In 2003, the country imported 12,000 tons of beef.
The Obama administration has worked to reopen borders closed to U.S. beef. Since January 2015, market access has been regained in 16 countries: Colombia, Costa Rica, Egypt, Guatemala, Iraq, Lebanon, Macau, New Zealand, Peru, Phillippines, Saint Lucia, Singapore, South Africa, Ukraine, Vietnam and Brazil.
Related: Brazil reopens market for U.S. beef
In August, USDA announced U.S. beef exports have recovered to pre-2003 levels.
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 years 2009 and the present.
In FY 2003, U.S. beef exports (excluding beef products) totaled $3 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 FY 2015, U.S. beef exports totaled $5.8 billion (0.8 million tons) to 112 countries.