Reuters: Chinese beef buyers race to get hands on American steak

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By Dominique Patton | BEIJING | Tue Jun 20, 2017 | 6:34 AM EDT

Chinese meat importers are racing to get their hands on the first shipments of beef from the United States in 14 years, as strong demand for premium steaks continues to grow in the $2.6 billion beef import market.

China and the United States last week settled the conditions for American beef exports after the two sides agreed in May to resume the trade. Pent-up demand for U.S. meat could erode sales of Australian beef, China’s current top supplier of premium steaks.

“We have ordered 56 to 58 tonnes of whole carcasses, which are expected to arrive by the end of July,” said Chen Fugang, owner of Aoyang International, a Shanghai-based trading company.

Chen said he expects the product to be a hit in the Chinese market, where total beef sales grew around 4 percent last year to reach 5.9 million tonnes, according to Euromonitor.

“We’re especially interested in several barbecue products, like rib eye and fillet steak, which we believe Chinese customers would like,” added Chen.

American beef is known for its quality in China, but was banned in 2003 after a mad cow disease scare. Since then, other beef imports have surged, as domestic production has struggled to keep up with demand from the expanding middle class.

Total beef arrivals rose 22 percent to 579,836 tonnes last year and foreign suppliers will meet about 20 percent of demand by 2020, forecasts Rabobank.