Livestock: U.S. Beef Sales to China to Remain Limited in Near Term

    Total U.S. beef exports are projected to increase another 2.5 to 3.5 percent year over year in 2018 to a new record level, including some growth in exports to China.

    Although there is great long-term potential for U.S. beef sales to China, the total contribution is likely to remain limited in the near term, cautions Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension livestock marketing specialist.

    “There is much interest in the market potential for U.S. beef in China since access was achieved in 2017,” he said. “Monthly beef exports to China are still very small but appear to be growing sporadically.”

    In November, beef exports to China were 1.97 million pounds, making China the 10th-largest U.S. beef export market. This level was slightly less than beef exports to the Philippines and represented 0.75 percent of total November beef exports.

    USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service has projected China will import 2.26 billion pounds of beef in 2018. At the current level, U.S. beef exports to China would represent roughly 1 percent of Chinese beef imports.

    “If the U.S. were to increase beef exports to China tenfold to a 10 percent market share, it would make China the fifth-largest beef market for beef exports and add roughly 10 percent to total U.S. beef exports,” Peel said.

    Unfortunately, growth this rapid seems unlikely in 2018.

    “Such a level may be more feasible in three to five years,” Peel said. “Still, it is difficult to anticipate how markets will evolve and growth could happen more quickly than is apparent now.”

    U.S. beef exports increased year over year each month in 2017 as the year closed out. Beef exports to the five major destinations increased year over year.

    “Japan was up 27.6 percent heading into December,” Peel said. “Japan is the largest U.S. beef export market and accounted for 29.5 percent of total exports.”

    Second largest is South Korea, up 6.1 percent through November and representing 16.6 percent of total exports. Mexico is the third-largest beef export market, up 7.5 percent and accounting for 14.7 percent of U.S. beef exports. Hong Kong is the fourth-largest export market, slightly larger than number five Canada. Hong Kong accounts for 11.1 percent of beef exports with Canada at 10.9 percent.

    “These five markets represent 82.8 percent of total beef exports in 2017,” Peel said.

    Oklahoma beef and veal exports annually bring in more than $350 million to the state economy, according to USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service data.

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