China May Announce Opening U.S. Beef Trade in 2014, Stuart Says

China, the world’s largest meat consumer, may announce plans this year to resume imports of U.S. beef, ending a decade-long ban prompted by mad cow disease, said Brett Stuart of researcher Global AgriTrends.

Retail beef prices in China have surged 95 percent since January 2011, Stuart said in an interview at a cattle industry conference in Nashville, Tennessee. China stopped buying U.S. beef in 2003 after a cow in Washington state tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE. Vice Minister Niu Dun said in December that China is seeking an agreement by July to resume U.S. beef shipments.

“It could take a while, but it’s very obvious to them and everyone else that they don’t have enough beef,” said Stuart, who expects “a lag” between the announcement and the start of deliveries.

U.S. beef-export volume may decline 3 percent this year, and the dollar value of shipments may rise, as shrinking production pushes average U.S. prices for beef and cattle to an all-time high, said Stuart, who is also a consultant for industry researcher CattleFax. While an open Chinese market would push exports above forecasts, U.S. sellers will be constrained by tight domestic supplies, he said.

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