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USMEF Joins China Meat Industry’s 20-Year Celebration

Published: Oct 18, 2012
The rapid development of China’s meat industry over the past 20 years, as well as a growing interest in food safety and sustainability, were key topics of conversation at the 10th annual China International Meat Industry Exhibition (CIMIE) and a related meat industry conference in Beijing last week.

Five exhibition halls of meat and meat industry related exhibitors drew a large gathering of industry participants to the event with features that included a meat cutting skill competition for local butchers and a “meat culture” component. However, discussion also touched on some topics that are newer to China, including increasing consumer concerns about safety, sustainability and the environment.

“Usage of buzz words ‘environment’ and ‘sustainability’ is definitely increasing,” said Joel Haggard, USMEF senior vice president for the Asia-Pacific region. “USMEF was among the first foreign participants in CIMIE 10 years ago, and we have seen significant changes, both in the conference and the industry over that time. These topics are part of that evolution.”

Haggard noted that the output of China’s processed meat sector alone is nearly as large as total U.S. pork production, even though the percentage of meat further processed – about 15 percent – is low compared to Western countries. An estimated 60 percent of China’s meat is still sold in fresh form (hot carcass), according to one major processor, who observed that there is a glaring need to establish a national cold chain to ensure food safety and the protection of the industry’s reputation.

Organized by the China Meat Industry Association (CMA) with a number of official domestic and international supporters, including USMEF, the CIMIE exhibition was part of Beijing Meat Week co-organized by the International Meat Secretariat. USMEF’s participation in CIMIE and the conference was made possible through the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and the Pork Checkoff.

“CIMIE is an excellent opportunity to observe the evolution of China’s meat industry, and meet with its major players,” said Haggard. “And the meat industry conference is an excellent venue for discussion of market and technological trends in the industry.”

Noting that most major national subsidies to meat enterprises and for meat products were abolished in the early 1990s, Li Shuilong, president of CMA, trumpeted the industry’s successes over the last 20 years, including an increase in national meat output estimated by USDA at 119 percent. Production from China’s “scaled” or industrialized operators has increased 1,200 percent over the same period, indicating a continued movement away from small, backyard producers. The total value of China’s meat output – including slaughter and meat processing – reached $14.5 billion in 2011.

USMEF’s participation in the CIMIE exhibition generated significant interest. USMEF staff in attendance noted that they received inquiries throughout the show and in the days that followed from interested purchasers, particularly further processors, inquiring about purchasing U.S. pork.

Through the first eight months of 2012, the China/Hong Kong region was the No. 3 market for U.S. pork exports, purchasing 282,637 metric tons (623.1 million pounds) valued at $569.4 million, increases of 11 percent in volume and 35 percent in value over last year’s record-setting pace.

China and Hong Kong import data indicate that pork and pork variety meat imports from all sources reached 1.1 million metric tons (2.4 billion pounds) in the first eight months of 2012. While this is an 8 percent increase over last year’s record pace, imports are not expected to keep pace with last year’s large volumes through the rest of the year. China’s domestic pork prices remain 17 to 20 percent lower than last year, with reportedly ample pork supplies, at least for the near-term.