China’s official beef imports surged by 60% year-on-year in 2015, according to Rabobank’s Beef Quarterly report.

Despite a slowing economy, official beef imports continued to increase and hit 473,000t in 2015.

This growth in imports is to be expected, as last year Rabobank said that China’s beef demand is to grow by 2.2m tonnes by 2025.

Furthermore, Bord Bia expects that by 2020 per capita consumption of beef will reach 6kg in China.

Beini Chen, Bord Bia’s Marketing Advisor in Shanghai, said that Chinese beef imports incorporates mainly low cost frozen beef imports and mid to high end product.

She said that the imported beef for lower cost frozen cuts are mainly from South America, while the mid to high-end beef products are imported principally from Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

While there is weak domestic production in China, demand for beef is strong and Rabobank has suggested that the beef sector will likely become the first agricultural sector where China has high integration with the rest of the world.

In addition to the volume gap, it is understood that China’s beef market also demonstrates potential for value-added and branded beef products.

Strong demand from the food service and retail market channels provides opportunities for both Chinese and foreign companies in the further processing sector, it says.

Pan Chenjun, Senior Analyst at Rabobank, says that beef companies face the challenge of where to source consistent beef supply.

“They also need to develop, and even create, new markets by delivering new products and addressing the needs for convenience, tailor-made value-added products,” Chenjun said.