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September, 30, 2016

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China lifts ban on US beef products

Premier's remarks spark rally in cattle futures, may relieve glut of cold storage supplies in US

Chinese authorities on Thursday announced the conditional lifting of a 13-year import ban on some US boneless beef and beef on the bone.

The removal of the ban applies to cattle that are under 30 months old, according to a joint statement issued on Thursday by the Ministry of Agriculture and the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

The authorities said China would allow imports of beef that comply with China's traceability and quarantine requirements.

China has banned imports of most US beef since 2003, partly due to the concerns over the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as "mad cow disease". The lifting of the ban will be subject to the completion of detailed quarantine requirements, which will be announced at a later date, the statement said.

Premier Li Keqiang told business groups in New York on Tuesday that China would soon resume imports of US beef.

Li's remark about Chinese shoppers soon having a greater choice of beef sparked a rally in US cattle futures, which closed at just under 1 percent higher at $1.085 per pound at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on Wednesday.

US cattle futures fell to six-year lows earlier this month, as supplies have expanded in the country, with a glut of cold storage beef, and China offers a potential outlet, The Wall Street Journal reported.

In the first six months of 2016, China imported 295,721 metric tons of beef, jumping 60.8 percent year-on-year. The value of imported beef reached $1.3 billion, up 48.3 percent year-on-year, according to the General Administration of Customs.

Because of rising feed prices, limited grazing land and the breeding cycle, China's cattle-raising sector lags behind consumer demand, resulting in higher beef prices in the past five years, according to a report by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

"With an emerging middle-class and their rising income, Chinese people are increasingly preferring high-quality and safe food products, including beef," said Wang Kai, a professor at Nanjing Agricultural University.

"Currently, the supply of beef in China falls short of demand, and China has found it is impossible to grow all of the food it needs and has consequently formed closer ties with the world food market."

"Demand for beef, mutton, fruit, wine and dairy roducts will certainly provide many opportunities for major agricultural produce exporters such as the US, Chile, Brazil and Argentina."

Tian Shen, a 24-year-old office worker in Beijing, said she prefers premium imported beef products in the supermarkets, as they have higher meat qualities and taste better.

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