December 3, 2011
UK beef industry eyes Chinese market
Representatives from the UK beef sector have met a delegation of Chinese vets as part of the effort to secure a certificate to export UK beef to China.
China is currently a massive market, with growing demand for beef products coupled with a reluctance to import from Japan following the earthquake and subsequent nuclear power station accident in March.
Members of the National Beef Association (NBA) and the English Beef and Lamb Executive met five vets from China's Henan Provincial Animal Husbandry Bureau at the Farmers Club in London.
The delegation from China initially approached the NBA to set up a meeting with UK beef producers. The team then spoke to three farmers and the NBA also contacted Eblex to present facts and figures on UK beef production.
The Chinese vets were most interested in improving their own beef production, using genetics, feeding and meat processing, and establishing a self-sufficient industry independent from Japanese, US and Canadian imports.
However, the NBA said that Chinese production would need to more than double for the country to become self-sufficient, which means there is clearly a market for British beef.
NBA chairman, Hamish McBean, who was also one of the farmers hosting the visitors, said, "It was a pleasure to meet the Chinese delegation, as we learn as much from them as they did from us.
"Their questions were fascinating and they clearly admire the UK's ability to cater for the high value, premium market," McBean said. "There is definitely a gap in the Chinese market that the UK could fill, which makes us securing an export certificate for China more important than ever."
Jonathan Eckley, of Eblex, who joined the NBA contingent, said, "While the process of gaining certification is a lengthy and complex one, it is important that we interact with Chinese representatives, such as these vets, in the meantime."
Henan province, which is in the middle of China and around 600km south of the capital Beijing, is the country's main agricultural production area. It is home to 10 million beef cattle - mainly Simmental and Charolais - and 950,000 dairy cows.
Both the province's beef and dairy sectors are intensive with little outside grazing and there is almost 100% use of artificial insemination.
Beef animals are finished at an average of 500kg liveweight under 18 months and sold for approximately GBP1.08/kg (US$1.68) liveweight, retailing at around GBP4/kg (US$6.24) in the supermarkets, according to the NBA.