Changing Chinese consumer preferences could lead to strong growth in demand for beef and for grains to feed local livestock. Photo: Robert Rough
China, the world’s biggest meat consumer, may double beef imports by 2018 as consumers can afford to buy more products they deem to be safer and healthier, according to Rabobank International.
Shipments from overseas may exceed 500,000 tonnes as domestic output fails to meet demand, Beijing-based analyst Pan Chenjun, said in an interview. Consumption of processed pork products will rise by more than 10 per cent a year, she said.
A gain in China’s demand for higher-priced meat will help the beef producers including Australia and Brazil and benefit processors such as Tyson and Smithfield Foods, owned by Hong Kong-based Shuanghui International. China last week said it is seeking an agreement to resume US beef shipments by July 2014 after they were banned in 2003.
“China has a structural beef shortage” after losses in 2006 prompted farmers to slaughter herds, Pan said yesterday. Rising grain prices and the long growth cycle for cattle have prevented a quick rebound in output, she said.
China may want to add the US as a supplier to help diversify its sources, Pan said. The country has banned American beef since a mad cow disease scare in 2003. It is also studying to lift a ban on Brazilian meat, Agriculture Minister Antonio Andrade said November 8.
Consumers will eat more processed meat because a more urban lifestyle demands convenience, benefiting Shuanghui and overseas companies that can cater to Chinese consumers’ tastes, Pan said. Spending on meat products is forecast to gain more than 10 per cent a year in the next five years, out pacing a 2 per cent annual increase in volumes, indicating people are buying more expensive products, she said.
As China produces almost all its pork, it will need to import more corn and soybeans to feed the herds, Pan said.