China's domestic meat lovers have been presented with a new option after Russian beef made its foray into the market.
A container carrying 21.4 tons of Russian beef has recently arrived in a designated site for imported meat supervision at Shanghai Xijiao International Agricultural Product Trade Center, marking the availability of the first batch of Russian beef in the Chinese market, China's state broadcaster reported late Sunday.
Calls to the trade center, a main channel for farm products trade in the Yangtze River Delta, seeking more details on the imported beef went unanswered.
The new option, albeit constituting a tiny part of China's total beef imports, would diversify beef supplies for a country increasingly reliant on imports for beef demands, according to market observers.
China's beef imports hit 1.66 million tons in 2019, a surge of 59.7 percent from the year before, Chinese customs data showed. This compares with a rise of 21.12 percent year-on-year in 2018 when China's beef imports topped 1 million tons for the first time.
A development plan for beef and mutton production devised by the nation's top economic planner envisioned that China's beef production will hit 7.86 million tons by 2020. Industry estimates put the nation's beef imports at more than two-thirds of the global total by 2020.
The nation's beef supplies come from domestic cattle farming and beef imports, and the latter is much more preferred, Fan Zhihong, associate professor at China Agricultural University, told the Global Times on Monday.
Cattle consume much more fodder than hogs, putting more pressure on China's imports of soybeans, among other feedstuffs. Beef cattle production also has an impact on the environment and domestic beef cattle husbandry still lags in terms of techniques, Fan said, noting that China has been moving toward diversifying the sources of imported beef.
Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Australia are among China's top source of beef imports.
In a sign that China's beef imports are unfazed by the COVID-19 pandemic, China's imports of beef from Brazil soared 124.7 percent year-on-year to $768 million in the first quarter, while Brazil's exports of agricultural products edged down 0.4 percent during the quarter, according to the latest numbers from Brazilian Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock.
US beef exports to China are also expected to continue strong as new guidelines set in the China-US phase one trade deal opens China's beef market up to the US, said Agri-Pulse, a US farm and rural policy source in late April.