A delegation from China’s food safety agency is coming to the U.S. to review American beef production.
The announcement has renewed speculation that China is preparing to lift its ban on imports of U.S. beef, a ban that’s been in place since the first BSE incident in December 2003.
Joe Schuele, communications director for the U.S. Meat Export Federation, says the announcement of the Chinese regulatory review is good news. But he also cautions against becoming too optimistic.
“I would agree that having the team come is a very important step—I would stop short of saying that it means that we’re on the brink of regaining access to China,” Schuele says. “But it is an important step and certainly we weren’t going to get back into the market until this happened.”
Schuele says that while recent discussions with the Chinese have been positive, there is no clear timetable for a reopening of their market.
“It certainly doesn’t allow us to identify a date certain when we think we’ll be back in the market,” he says. “Trying to do that has proven to be quite difficult over the years.”
China’s imports of beef have exploded in recent years. Schuele says that country is expected to purchase upwards of 1.5 billion dollars of beef this year, about five times the level of just two years ago.