China beef continues to rise

A recent report released by Rabobank indicates Chinese demand for beef continues to rise, heralding positive news for a number of international beef exporters.

The report cites several factors for the increase in consumption of beef in China, including continued income growth, increased urbanisation, dietary shifts and the growing popularity of international beef burger restaurants such as McDonalds and Burger King.

Beef consumption also received a boost earlier this year in the wake of high profile food scares surrounding pork and chicken, China’s two most popular meats with 65 per cent and 22 per cent share of national meat consumption, versus the modest 8 per cent share for beef.

Rabobank indicates that while traditionally reserved for occasional eating in China, consumers typically consume more beef as incomes rise.  From 2001-2011, per capita consumption of beef was 4.27kg per year (versus 37kg for pork) but this is forecast to rise to 5.47kg per person by 2021.  To put this in context, a 1.2kg increase for every one of China’s 1.4 billion population translates into an extra 1.68 million tons of beef demand for the Chinese market, or over three times Ireland’s total beef export volume in 2012.

With Chinese domestic beef production subject to constraints such as poor genetics, competition for limited agricultural resources and structural issues within the industry, China’s key beef trading partners Australia, Uruguay, New Zealand and Brazil look set to profit from growing Chinese demand in coming years.

Despite being the Northern Hemisphere’s biggest net exporter of beef, Ireland does not currently have access to the Chinese beef market. Irish beef exporters reported unprecedented interest from Chinese buyers at Bord Bia’s Ireland pavilion at SIAL China in May this year.

By Nick McIlroy, Shanghai Office, Bord Bia

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