China to conditionally lift ban on some U.S. beef

(Dave Bedard photo)

Beijing | Reuters –– China has conditionally lifted an import ban on some shipments of U.S. boneless beef and beef on the bone, the country’s agriculture ministry and quality watchdog said on Thursday.

The lifting of the ban applies to imports of beef from animals under 30 months old (UTMs), according to a statement posted on the ministry of agriculture’s website.

The removal of the ban remains subject to completion of quarantine requirements, which will be issued later, the ministry said, without providing further details.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told a business dinner in New York on Tuesday that China would soon allow imports of beef on the bone from the U.S.

China’s limits on U.S. beef imports date back to late 2003, when it closed its ports to all U.S. beef after the discovery of an animal with BSE in the U.S. herd.

Access to China is a coveted prize for beef-exporting nations. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, in a market access update earlier this week, said it sees “significant potential for long-term demand due to evolving consumer trends and a rapidly growing middle class in China.”

Canada’s beef exports to China remain limited to boneless UTM beef, a fact the CCA has described as the “most significant remaining” market restriction stemming from the first appearance of BSE in a Canadian cow in 2003.

China agreed in 2010 to a “staged approach” on restoring Canadian beef access, starting that year with boneless UTM beef. CCA and Canadian federal officials continue to work toward access for the full range of Canadian UTM beef products to the Chinese market, the association said.

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) in 2013 upgraded the United States’ risk classification for BSE to its safest level, “negligible risk.” Canada has been in the “controlled risk” category for BSE since 2007.

Reporting by Reuters’ Beijing monitoring desk. Includes files from Network staff.

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