China opens wide for red meat exports

Exporters are wasting no time in getting products on the water after the biggest opening of the Chinese market to meat exports in the best part of a decade. 

The Ministry for Primary Industries confirmed that four meat plants have been granted new access for chilled exports to China and another 18 for frozen tripe.

It is the biggest market access gain for meat exporters in their biggest single market since Chinese authorities rubber-stamped 10 plants for chilled exports in 2017. 

At the time exporters reported a 10-20% premium for chilled sales to China above the price paid for frozen meat.

More plants were to have been added but none were, and the high-value chilled trade has struggled to gain momentum until now.

The latest round of approvals came after an overhaul last year of the paper-based certification systems used by the General Administration of Customs for the People’s Republic of China (GACC). 

The shift to an electronic system necessitated every one of the more than 60 processing plants registered for export to China having to re-register existing products with GACC as the agency rolled out the new system to every food exporting country in the world. 

As part of this process exporters were allowed to apply for certification of products they were blocked from selling to China.

Hamilton-based Greenlea Premier Meats was one of the six exporters granted chilled access in 2017.

Seven years later chief executive Tony Egan said the company has now been given additional access for chilled beef exports from its Morrinsville plant.  

“We have already done a couple of trial loads on chilled from the Morrinsville plant.”

Egan said the company already has buyers for its chilled output but the new access will increase its range of selling options.

“It does take a while to build a profile once you get new access but we are working on that.

“It gives us options.”

The more-than-doubling of the number of processing plants registered for frozen tripe from 17 to 35 is also a major win for exporters previously unable to take advantage of higher returns in the Chinese market.

According to an industry report, tripe and casings fetched $14 per kg in China in 2022, compared to the global average of $4 per kg. 

ANZCO general manager of sales and marketing Rick Walker said the exporter gained provisional approvals for plants for tripe and one for chilled beef late last year. 

Manufacturing of products had been underway for some time but shipping was delayed until GACC auditors signed off the company’s plants last week. 

Walker said it also wanted to be sure port authorities in China had been notified of the new approvals by GACC.

“The problem with China is there is more than one authority to deal with.

“Even from port to port there are different levels of administration and you need to make sure everyone is on the same track.

“We made the choice not to ship anything until we had every box ticked.

“You do not want to put yourself in the position where Chinese authorities are asking questions or rejecting things.”

Walker said the approvals are an undoubted boost to the industry at a time of depressed returns.

However, New Zealand exporters are not alone in being granted new access to high-value markets in China.

Australian and South American rivals had also been given the chance to apply for new access as a result of the administrative shake-up.

“A lot of that value we have had in those specific markets in China up to this point in time will be diluted because supply is going to be far more balanced with the demand opportunities,” Walker said.

A spokesperson for the MPI said the new plant approvals were for five years, after which time exporters will need to re-apply to GACC for them to be rolled over for another five years.