US beef exports to Hong Kong boom

by Bryan Salvage
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DENVER – US beef exports to Hong Kong are climbing high in 2011. Exports through the first five months of the year have more than doubled in volume to 50.8 million lbs. and increased 140 percent in value to just more than$100 million.

Joel Haggard, US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) senior vice president for the Asia Pacific region based in Hong Kong, said Hong Kong’s economy is booming and there is strong demand for US beef. However, Haggard said the US lacks access for bone-in cuts, offal and all beef products from cattle 30 months of age or older. He says removal of these restrictions would provide for even more robust growth.

“Hong Kong is officially a part of China but it’s a separate customs and quarantine administration zone so it has its own rules,” he said. “Hong Kong is a market for us for boneless beef under 30 months; there is no offal...that’s a constraint to our exports but the economy has been so strong there that we’re seeing very robust sales. They’re sitting at the southern tip of China, which is growing at 9.5 percent growth. Hong Kong has become a huge shopping destination for mainland tourists — they come down to shop, eat and play. We’re definitely seeing a bump in our products due to that influx of tourists.

“But in addition to that, we’re competitive price-wise,” he added. “So, we’ve seen an incredible take up of US beef by not only the five-star grill rooms, but even fast-food. So, it’s a very encouraging profile; it’s a large range of cuts. Traders are making money off the products, restaurants are making money off the product. It’s just a very vibrant market for use right now.”

Despite outstanding growth numbers, Haggard said exports to Hong Kong could be even better if not for product restrictions. “Canada has full access for beef over and under 30 months, offal plus bone-in,” he added. “We’re excluded from that segment. There are restaurants there just like there are in the states that specialize in prime rib. We’re out of that market. Bone-in short-ribs are an incredible item for a number of different foodservice end-users right now – we’re out of that market right now. So, if we do get the access, we’ll see a significant bump in sales.”
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