There is something suspicious in China’s food imports in the US. UU.

Large US exports of beef, pork and chicken seem to be perfectly positioned to take advantage: Chinese pork prices have almost doubled over the past year due to Asian swine fever, leaving the country well below its favorite meat

However, Americans who want to benefit from China’s change in appetite for imported protein should probably consider thinking from the perspective of Asian diets. Some of the foods that will benefit most from any growth in US exports are not key elements in McDonald’s menu.

Take seafood. Fish is only surpassed by pork in the appetite of Chinese diners. Of the 43 grams of protein that the country consumes per person, per day, pork represents 12 grams and fish 6.5 grams, ahead of 6 grams for dairy, 4.5 grams for poultry and less than 2 grams for meat Add seafood, seaweed and other delicacies, and the seafood as a whole adds up to 9.15 grams per day.

Look at the categories of animal products that China imported from the US. UU. In 2018, and is led by foods that are considered in the context of commercial diplomacy much less than the usual agricultural products: frozen whole fish, crustaceans and mollusks are more important than pork, for example.

As anyone who had eaten a Chinese meal would know, the country has a great appetite for seafood, particularly in coastal provinces where incomes are higher and imported foods are more affordable. However, there is a problem: the country’s huge domestic aquaculture industry reached capacity limits several years ago, and the demand for live-caught fish products is declining, in part due to concerns over the collapse of food chains Marine due to overfishing.

That makes imports from other countries an attractive alternative. Seafood purchases from abroad increased 14% in the first 11 months of 2018 to 3.06 million tons, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. UU., And increased 45% in value to $ 10.65 billion. The United States is between Russia and Canada as the largest supplier of seafood imported from China, and some American delicacies, such as crayfish and Maine lobster, are very fashionable despite high tariffs.

Most supply chains to facilitate this trade are already well established. In fact, the main barrier to increasing US seafood exports. UU. To China is that the country already represents a significant portion of trade: around 30% to 40% for the main categories of frozen fish, crustaceans and molluscs. In the case of pork, chicken and beef, food security and quarantine restrictions mean that China represents a much smaller proportion of US exports, on the scale of one percentage point or less. That offers a substantial advantage, although much will depend on US slaughterhouses working harder than they have in the past to establish supply chains without additives that meet China’s food standards.

The guts seem another attractive road for Chinese bellies. Modern Americans prefer lean cuts in their dishes, but China’s appetite for corns, liver and kidneys means that offal imports from the United States are worth approximately six times more than the meat trade today. A container containing 23.94 metric tons of US chicken legs that cleared Chinese customs on Tuesday was the first major import of US poultry to China after a five-year ban on bird flu, the official Securities Times reported this week. Brazilian pork offal was approved for import for the first time in November, amid the decline in domestic supply due to African swine fever.

At a time when up to 40% of the US food supply is wasted. In the US, there is a pleasant symmetry in a trade agreement that allows trade between China and the United States to heal by allowing the two countries to divide their meat into the pieces they like most respectively. If three years of commercial tensions are resolved in a spirit of courtesy, there are few better ways to start than to break bread together.

To contact the author of this story: David Fickling at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachel Rosenthal at [email protected]

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

David Fickling is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist that covers products, as well as industrial and consumer companies. He has been a reporter for Bloomberg News, Dow Jones, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and The Guardian.

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