by Ken Root & Whitney Flach
With China’s recent announcement signaling they are willing to reopen their markets to US beef, there still remains a lot of work to be done, negotiating terms and protocols, before product from American producers ever starts to ship overseas Ron Hays with the Rural Oklahoma Network, spoke with Kent Bacus of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association recently, who says with China’s population over one billion strong and growing, this is one market really worth working hard for. The Chinese middle class alone, he says, is bigger than the entire US population.
“This really all started with the cow that stole Christmas in 2003,” Bacus said. “This is a big development considering it’s taken 13 years, a lot of education on the part of the US beef industry, not only on the safety but the quality of the product to really help address all those concerns that China has had.”
Bacus says the beef industry has been working very closely with both the US and Chinese governments to make sure China understands exactly how safe our product is and why we should be able to export to their market. He says Chinese consumers want not just protein – they want beef, and he says it is a top priority for NCBA to make sure we are able to compete for that market share.
“As soon as we are able to get a foot in the door and are able to compete,” Bacus said, “we’ve got a product that will out compete all the other markets that are there. So we’re very excited about this development and we want to restore full access as soon as possible.”
According to Bacus, the next step in opening China’s market will be to iron out all the trade terms and protocols with China’s food safety administration. He believes this process may be concluded within a matter of months, based on the timescales of negotiations between China and other countries they’ve reopened their markets to. In addition to all this, Bacus says China is an important foothold to have in the Asian and Pacific Rim markets, though focus, he says, also needs to be paid to opening access to all markets in this region through the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He encourages producers to stay engaged with their congressional leaders and push for a ‘Yes’ vote on TPP this fall.