Growers told to trust U.S. beef’s global reputation
ROANOKE, Va. — International trade representatives told a small group of western Virginia beef producers last week that opportunity abounds overseas as increasingly wealthy populations seek to boost the amount of beef in their diet.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services invited regional beef producers to a seminar with trade advocates at the Roanoke Higher Education Center on Nov. 6.
Despite varying trade war concerns, much of the message was uniform: American beef has a strong reputation abroad, and consumers across China, Southeast Asia and Latin America want more of it.
In China, American beef is “famous for the brand. Famous for premium qualities,” said Amber Fung of SMH International, a Hong Kong-based marketing company that works with the agriculture department. “We like it.”
But an ongoing trade dispute between the United States and China has complicated agricultural exports, she said. China has placed a 37 percent duty on American beef exports, more than triple what it was. (Australia, a top beef exporter to of Asia, has just a 7.2 percent duty placed on its products.)
American farmers have struggled due to the dispute, which has shut down billions of dollars worth of agricultural trade between the United States and China. President Trump has sought to ameliorate the consequences with a $6 billion aid package to farmers, which began mailing checks in September.
“We’ve hit a few little road bumps with China, but we do believe those are going to get worked out,” said Keith Lang, director of the Virginia agricultural department’s Office of International Marketing.
Southeast Asia is also a prime market for American beef exports. The region lacks the land, infrastructure, legislative policy and technical knowledge to supply its entire population, said Anna F. Demetillo, a Malaysian market researcher with Orissa International. The region has also been opening its markets to foreign beef suppliers in an effort to reduce the price for local consumers, her report said. U.S. beef also has a reputation for quality and safety, particularly in Vietnam.
“For this market, the U.S. has a very good brand equity,” she said.
Per capita beef consumption is also expected to uniformly expand in Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia from 2016 to 2020. Significant portions of the region, such as Malaysia, also demand halal meat, which means meat prepared as prescribed by Muslim law. Regardless, Southeast Asians see beef similarly to much of the world.
“In our market, beef is considered the superior meat, and our consumers are willing to pay a premium for it,” Demetillo said.
Consumers across Latin America are also buying beef more often, as the popularity of pork and chicken wanes, said Monica Moreno Arellano, an agricultural marketing specialist with Grupo PM in Mexico City.
“Beef is the new protein,” she said.
The state department reminded farmers that the trade representatives are also available to organize free trade missions for farmers interested in evaluating foreign markets or developing relationships with foreign buyers — a necessity before a farmer decides to join the export market, said Scott Mueller, general manager of Samson LLC, a Nebraska company that provides USDA-approved process verification services for value-added markets.
“Make sure you have a market first,” he said.
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