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Market Education Program Concludes in Hong Kong

Published: Mar 19, 2012
Fifteen representatives of USMEF member organizations visited Hong Kong late last week on the final stop of the 2012 USMEF Market Education Program. The group had previously visited South Korea and southern China.

With nearly 50 countries battling for market share, Hong Kong is one of the most fiercely competitive beef and pork markets in the world. So what makes this enclave of 7 million people such an attractive destination for red meat from around the globe?

“The biggest factor is that Hong Kong does not have the burdensome duties we face in some other markets, and there are very few restrictive sanitary and phytosanitary barriers,” said Joel Haggard, USMEF senior vice-president for the Asia-Pacific region. “There’s not much livestock production in Hong Kong, so meat from all countries is allowed access at zero duty.”

On a supermarket visit in Hong Kong, participants were able to observe a sampling demonstration of all-natural U.S. pork. The importer cooperating with USMEF on the in-store demonstration explained why U.S. pork and beef perform very well in this market.

“Product stability is really important to our clients, and the quality of U.S. meat is very stable and consistent,” said Shyrell Hui, marketing manager for Million Gourmet Limited. “USMEF’s marketing efforts in Hong Kong have also had a very positive effect. Because of this marketing, the marbling, flavor and texture of U.S. meat are well-known and the products have an excellent reputation.”

While in Hong Kong, producers had several opportunities to see how U.S. beef and pork are marketed in the wholesale, retail and foodservice sectors and toured a terminal at the Hong Kong seaport, which is one of the world’s busiest. They also received a market overview from Erich Kuss, director of the Agricultural Trade Office for the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong. Kuss provided insights on the favorable regulatory and business climate enjoyed by U.S. products in this market, but noted that U.S. beef imports are still limited to boneless muscle cuts from cattle less than 30 months of age. He offered encouraging comments with regard to change in this policy in the near future, however, now that the Korea-U.S. FTA is in effect and U.S. negotiators have made progress on other obstacles that have hampered U.S. beef trade in Asia.

The soybean industry was especially well-represented in this year’s USMEF Market Education Program, with representatives of the United Soybean Board and several state soybean organizations participating.

“Every time I look in a meat case here that offers U.S. pork and beef, I see my soybeans,” said Ron Pavelka, a soybean and corn farmer from Glenvil, Neb., who also operates a cow-calf herd and serves on the Nebraska Soybean Board. “Virtually all of our soybean meal goes to feed livestock, so we’re all really in the same business. It’s really great to see all the behind-the-scenes efforts that go on here on the producers’ behalf.”

Bill Raben, a soybean and corn grower from Ridgway, Ill., who serves on the Illinois Soybean Association board of directors, agreed.

“It’s been an exceptionally educational trip for me - one that’s truly opened my eyes,” he said. “Although I don’t raise livestock, I grow the grain that’s fed to hogs and cattle and a healthy animal agriculture sector is essential to the success of the soybean industry. I’m pleased to see that we are making great strides with U.S. pork in both Hong Kong and China, and with the beef we ship to Hong Kong. If we can just get past the beef restrictions in China, we’ll have even more opportunities in this region.”

“Hong Kong is such a laboratory for free and open meat trade,” Haggard said. “It’s great to bring producers here to observe that, and to see how our products stack up in this very competitive environment.”