Feed Bites

Chinese Demand for Meat and Milk = New Export Opportunities

Written by: Gina Tumbarello   |   April 15, 2021

Trade, African swine fever, Beef, Dairy, China

From the moment I started at the American Feed Industry Association, I have been consumed with all things China--the restrictions, barriers, questions, unknowns, complexities and just plain confusion of trying to get U.S. animal food products into that market.  

We all recognize the potential opportunities in this important, growing and modernizing country. But in the last few months, I’ve been thinking about how much has changed for many agricultural exports globally in the past few years as a result of the African swine fever outbreak.  

China lost an estimated 60% of its swine herd. This didn’t mean “China just has less pork.” The Asian country’s imports of pork products from Spain, the United States, Brazil, Germany, Denmark, Canada and others, skyrocketed. In 2020, China’s pork imports represented close to 40% of global pork trade! Even more interesting, ASF also fueled imports of other meat products, such as beef and even chicken. According to Rabobank, overall Chinese imports reached a record high in 2020, with an 85% year-over-year increase in meat imports alone. China’s beef imports were around one-quarter of global beef imports. There has been a serious shift in the flow of meat products globally, with China at the center driving it.  

So, why does all this get my brain stirring?  

2020 didn’t just bring COVID-19, it also brought the United States a phase one trade agreement with China that finally allows new U.S. feed additives into the Chinese market. This, combined with the expansion and investment into the beef cattle and dairy industry in China, provides an auspicious opportunity for the U.S. animal food industry.  

While China is the world’s largest importer of dairy products, as well as a major global milk producer, its dairy production has been flat since 2008. However, its growth in dairy consumption is obvious, and the gap between supply and demand has been met with growing imports, rather than growing domestic production. China is also the fourth largest producer of beef in the world and is only one of three countries in the world that has over 100 million head of cattle. Only India and Brazil have larger cattle inventories!) But China is also the fifth largest beef importer in the world. China’s demand for meat and dairy products exceeds its current production capabilities. 

Here is where we come in!  

Can U.S. animal food ingredients enhance dairy and beef production in China? With many market access limitations being lifted through the U.S.-China phase one trade agreement, is there a bigger role for our products in this important market? 

The AFIA is looking into just that.  

Through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service’s Market Access Program, the AFIA is exploring opportunities to share the variety, efficacy, quality, viability, safety and sustainability of U.S. feed additives with Chinese beef and dairy producers and feed manufacturers. We want them to understand the potential contributions U.S. feed additives can have to increasing production efficiency and profitability. 

So, get ready! We are gearing up for exciting opportunities in 2022…that is…if we can finally travel by then! 

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