China has a healthy appetite for food imports

Updated: 2015-03-02 07:14

By ZHONG NAN(China Daily)

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Chinese citizens consumed an average of 17.2 kilograms of mutton per capita in 2014, compared with 12 kilograms in 2008. The Beijing-based China Meat Association predicts that this figure will reach 28 kg between 2017 and 2022.

Yu says demand for lamb in China's western region, particularly in the Ningxia Hui and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions, and Qinghai and Gansu provinces, has quickly grown over the past five years, mainly because it is getting more expensive to raise sheep in western China, where the economy and livestock industry are less developed than in the eastern provinces.

Due to rising feed prices, limited grazing land and the breeding cycle, China's sheep breeding sector lags behind consumer demand, resulting in higher lamb prices over the past five years, according to a report released last December by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

"As China has found it impossible to grow all of the food it needs and has consequently formed closer ties with the world food market, demand for fruit, olive oil, wine, meat and dairy products will certainly provide many opportunities for major agricultural produce exporters such as Australia, the United States, Chile, Brazil and Argentina," Yu says.

Eager to meet domestic demand for various foodstuffs, the Chinese government has increased international trade in food products through trading arrangements such as signing free trade agreements or non-tariff deals for certain agricultural products with its trading partners in Europe, Africa and South America.

As China and Australia announced the practical conclusion of negotiations on an FTA last November, Zheng Fengtian, a professor at the school of agricultural economics and rural development at Renmin University of China in Beijing, says the prices of many Australian agricultural products will be fairly attractive to the Chinese buyers under the China-Australia FTA framework.

The agreement will cover more than 10 areas, including a simplified review procedure for investments, most-favored-nation status, favorable market access rules and market transparency.

China now imposes 12 to 25 percent tariffs on Australian beef, but these levies will be phased out within nine years under the pact.

Tariffs on Australian wine will also be dropped by 2018.

Australian beef accounted for 56 percent of China's beef imports in 2014. The agribusiness research department of the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd has forecast that the total value of Australian beef shipped to China will reach A$130 billion ($102 billion) by 2030.


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