Texas cattle industry eyeing $291 annual million boost from Chinese market


By Lynn Brezosky, San Antonio Express-News

August 9, 2017


COLLEGE STATION — The Trump administration’s last-minute withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement with Asia undercut U.S. beef exporters, but Texas cattle ranchers still have reason to be bullish about what agricultural economist Derrell Peel called “the law of Chinese markets.”


“Any number times 1.4 billion is a big number,” Peel told the more than 2,000 cattle raisers filling a cavernous auditorium at Texas A&M University on Monday for an update on export markets. The Beef Cattle Short Course, billed as the world’s largest event of its kind, continues through Wednesday.


China, the most populous nation in the world, accepted its first shipments of U.S. meat in June from a packing house in Nebraska. For U.S. cattle producers, the dignitary-studded June 30 event in Beijing welcoming U.S. beef was momentous.


“We’re just fortunate to really have our foot in the door once again,” said Kelley Sullivan, co-owner of the Santa Rosa Ranch, which specializes in raising Brangus and UltraBlack and its the largest cattle producer in Texas. “You can talk to anybody within the Texas Beef Council and they are receiving multiple calls a day from Chinese purveyors looking for eligible cattle.”


While grass-fed cuts from Australia still dominate mainland Chinese shelves, U.S. industry leaders hope it’s only a matter of time before Chinese consumers take to U.S. grain fed beef. For now, inventories are limited and the product is likely causing sticker shock among average Chinese buyers. Still, it’s hard for Texas producers not to be bullish about the math.


China was the largest buyer of U.S. beef — snapping up some 70 percent of the U.S. beef export market — up until 2003 when a mad cow disease scare prompted Chinese leaders to close the nation’s borders to the product. With the country’s growing prosperity, China’s beef imports, in the meantime, have continued to rise to $2.5 billion in 2016. That’s a 21.5 percent increase since 2011.


Texas, which is the nation’s largest producer of beef and counts cattle as its largest agricultural commodity, accounts for a sixth of all U.S. beef exports. Should the U.S. regain that 70 percent market share, the China market alone would be worth $291 million annually to Texas producers.


“We finally had the breakthrough, and it’s tremendous. I would say it’s better than I honestly expected,” said Erin Borror of the U.S. Meat Export Federation...