Beef imports increase, satisfying many palates

NANNING — A containership carrying Brazilian beef recently arrived at China’s Qinzhou Port in the Beibu Gulf after more than a month’s voyage from the Port of Santos in Brazil.

After being unloaded, the goods were further transported to the populous Pearl River Delta region in South China and the provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan in Southwest China, before being served at restaurants or cooked in local households.

China is a major consumer of beef. In recent years, its import volume of beef has continued to rise, showing rapid growth momentum.

According to Customs data, China’s beef imports have more than doubled from 1.04 million metric tons in 2018 to 2.69 million tons recorded in 2022. Last year alone, China imported nearly $17.76 billion of beef, an increase of 42.19 percent over the previous year.

In the first half of the year, China’s imported beef and edible cow entrails reached 1.25 million tons, marking a cumulative increase of 6.3 percent year-on-year. China mainly imports beef from countries such as Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.

Guangxi Free Trade Zone Linhai Supply Chain Co Ltd, located in the Qinzhou Port, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, started its business by dealing with red wine imports. Driven by market demand, it began a cold-chain import business in recent years.

The company now cooperates with JBS SA, a Brazilian meat processing company, to import Brazilian beef.

In 2022, China’s beef imports from Brazil totaled $7.5 billion, accounting for 42.38 percent of China’s total beef imports.

Qin Shide, deputy general manager of Guangxi Free Trade Zone Linhai Supply Chain Co Ltd, said that last year they imported 17 beef containers weighing 475 tons, all from Brazil.

As the economy and consumption gradually recover, the company plans to buy more beef from Brazil this year, with the import value expected to quadruple that of last year, Qin said.

Rice or noodles with beef toppings from street stalls are among the most popular dishes in China. Beef is a common bestseller in barbecue and hotpot restaurants, and consumers favor steak meals in Western cuisine eateries.

Zhou Yu, a resident in Guangxi’s Nanning, said steaks served with a plate of pasta and broccoli are now a common main dish for her family’s supper, adding that recently, imported beef is much cheaper than before, allowing her family to consume beef more frequently.

China’s well-developed e-commerce industry has also fueled the beef import boom. Livestream shows have brought high-quality imported beef onto the dining tables of many Chinese families.

On the video-sharing app Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, consumers are willing to fork out a high amount of money for premium steak imports via livestream shows.

Many affordable steak meals can be ordered online with a few clicks on phone screens and then shipped to consumers’ doorsteps without any extra delivery fees, thanks to the country’s efficient cold-chain logistics.

Industry insiders believe that with the economic recovery, the catering sector is gradually picking up, and China’s beef consumption will continue its growth in 2023.