Xinhua Headlines: American cattle farmers eager to sell quality beef to China

 

by Xinhua writers Zhou Xiaozheng, Yang Shilong and Yang Chenglin

Source: Xinhua (China) | Editor: Yamei | 2019-04-08

 

FORSYTH, the United States, April 8 (Xinhua) -- On a chilly late March morning, Phil Ham and his two sons got up early for the big day of a year on their 1,700-acre (688 hectares) family farm, located in Forsyth, the U.S. state of Georgia.

 

With the help of a vet and a driver, the three drove 35 head of Black Angus cattle, carefully selected from a herd of over 500 currently grazing on the farm, onto a special livestock transport truck.

 

All eight to 12 months old and weighing between 650 to 680 pounds (about 300 kg) each, these cattle were headed for a feedlot some 1,600 km away in the Midwestern U.S. state of Iowa, where they would be kept for another six months to have their weight doubled before they could be exported to overseas markets.

 

And the beef's final destination? "We hope it would be China," said Ham, pointing to the country name printed on the verification and export permit paperwork he had got from state authorities.

 

"I know our two countries are still in the process of negotiating a trade deal, but we still have six months and we want to be prepared," said the 60-year-old farmer.

 

IMPORTANCE OF AGRICULTURAL EXPORTS

 

The Sleepy Creek Farms owned by the Ham family was founded by Ham's grandfather in the time of the Great Depression (1929-1939). In the state of Georgia, over 42,000 small or medium-sized farms like this compose the bulk of the local agricultural sector, which contributed 12.4 percent of the state GDP (gross domestic product) in 2013. Also, one in seven Georgians work in agriculture or related fields.

 

Exports of agricultural products, ranging from poultry and beef to pecan and cotton, are just as important to Georgian agriculture as the industry to the state economy. According to Will Bentley, president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council, about 20 percent of the local agricultural income comes from exports.

 

As the Georgian farmers' income has been "continuing to get lower and lower" in the last several years, "the only way out of that is through increased trade," said Bentley.

 

However, it takes not just years, but decades to build a mature chain of supply for high-end export markets. The Ham family farm is now in a group of about 25 cattle farms in middle Georgia that share the same marketing network.

 

Through this network, the farms can send their young cattle to the Iowa feedlot, a critical step to improve meat quality and reduce feed costs, and the feedlot will ship the mature cattle to a slaughter and packing facility in the neighboring state of Nebraska. The processed beef then returns to Georgia for exports through local dealers.

 

Bill Pellett, who operates the Atlantic, Iowa-based feedlot, told Xinhua that presently the beef is mainly exported to European countries such as Germany, Italy and Switzerland, as well as some Southeast Asian nations like Vietnam and Singapore.

 

"But we all want more long-term markets," said the seasoned farmer. "And if the China market opens back up, we will be glad and ready to ship beef."

 

APPEAL OF CHINESE MARKET

 

FORSYTH, the United States, April 8 (Xinhua) -- On a chilly late March morning, Phil Ham and his two sons got up early for the big day of a year on their 1,700-acre (688 hectares) family farm, located in Forsyth, the U.S. state of Georgia.

 

With the help of a vet and a driver, the three drove 35 head of Black Angus cattle, carefully selected from a herd of over 500 currently grazing on the farm, onto a special livestock transport truck.

 

All eight to 12 months old and weighing between 650 to 680 pounds (about 300 kg) each, these cattle were headed for a feedlot some 1,600 km away in the Midwestern U.S. state of Iowa, where they would be kept for another six months to have their weight doubled before they could be exported to overseas markets.

 

And the beef's final destination? "We hope it would be China," said Ham, pointing to the country name printed on the verification and export permit paperwork he had got from state authorities.

 

"I know our two countries are still in the process of negotiating a trade deal, but we still have six months and we want to be prepared," said the 60-year-old farmer.

 

IMPORTANCE OF AGRICULTURAL EXPORTS

 

The Sleepy Creek Farms owned by the Ham family was founded by Ham's grandfather in the time of the Great Depression (1929-1939). In the state of Georgia, over 42,000 small or medium-sized farms like this compose the bulk of the local agricultural sector, which contributed 12.4 percent of the state GDP (gross domestic product) in 2013. Also, one in seven Georgians work in agriculture or related fields.

 

Exports of agricultural products, ranging from poultry and beef to pecan and cotton, are just as important to Georgian agriculture as the industry to the state economy. According to Will Bentley, president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council, about 20 percent of the local agricultural income comes from exports.

 

As the Georgian farmers' income has been "continuing to get lower and lower" in the last several years, "the only way out of that is through increased trade," said Bentley.

 

However, it takes not just years, but decades to build a mature chain of supply for high-end export markets. The Ham family farm is now in a group of about 25 cattle farms in middle Georgia that share the same marketing network.

 

Through this network, the farms can send their young cattle to the Iowa feedlot, a critical step to improve meat quality and reduce feed costs, and the feedlot will ship the mature cattle to a slaughter and packing facility in the neighboring state of Nebraska. The processed beef then returns to Georgia for exports through local dealers.

 

Bill Pellett, who operates the Atlantic, Iowa-based feedlot, told Xinhua that presently the beef is mainly exported to European countries such as Germany, Italy and Switzerland, as well as some Southeast Asian nations like Vietnam and Singapore.

 

"But we all want more long-term markets," said the seasoned farmer. "And if the China market opens back up, we will be glad and ready to ship beef."

 

APPEAL OF CHINESE MARKET ...

 

OPTIMISM ABOUT FUTURE ...  

 

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