China seen opening soon to U.S. pork: report

KANSAS CITY Sat Mar 6, 2010 1:34pm EST

KANSAS CITY (Reuters) - Pork producers attending their annual meeting here are looking for China to be the next major market to open fully to U.S. pork following word this week that certificate problems with Russia have been solved and exports could start soon to that country.

China is a potential major customer for U.S. pork in the future and producers are looking for exports to resume after being halted last year due to H1N1 concerns.

"There is a tremendous effort by the U.S. government to work with the Chinese -- we're looking for the Chinese market to open up very soon," Phil Seng, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, told Reuters on the sidelines of the National Pork Forum being held here.

"There's a delegation of USDA folks that will be in China and we're expecting this (final OK) to come very soon, as far as the opening of China. We're looking at the USDA being there in the next week," Seng said.

There has been only partial progress in resuming pork exports to China after they halted imports in April from all H1N1-infected countries.

In early December China reopened their market to pork from the United States, Canada and Mexico. But problems finalizing export certificate language has kept pork exports from flowing and so far only Canada has meet China's certification requirements.

Seng noted that the Chinese look at the market as being basically open to U.S. pork, but there is language on the certificate they are asking the United States to provide and that has been somewhat of a problem.

He said the main problem in starting exports has been their continued concern over H1N1 and their requirements that containers used to ship pork there be sanitized. All sectors of the U.S. industry are working with the government to get the language in the certificates to a point that is acceptable to the Chinese and also acceptable to the United States.

"We expect for us fully to get back in that market very soon," Seng added.

CHINA REPRESENTS HUGE POTENTIAL

Pork producers know that China represents a huge potential to increase U.S. pork exports. If the China market was fully opened they could take up to 50 percent of U.S. production.

"If China really left markets work and gave us 5 to 10 years we could be exporting 50 percent of what the U.S. produces just to that one country," Dermot Hayes, professor of Economics at Iowa State, told Reuters before speaking to pork producers here. "Their industry is four times bigger than ours and if they just imported a quarter of what they buy and bought half of that from us it would be a big deal."

He noted that short term, imports are dependent on the whim of the government and China is using H1N1 and concern over unwanted additives to keep imports from other countries down.

"Long term, China is land scarce and Asian countries that are land scarce traditionally import a lot of pork, as much as 25 percent of what they consume. Japan is up at 50 percent," Hayes said.

"They have a lot of inefficient pork production -- very labor intensive -- and they have a better use for those individuals in the cities at construction sites. So as they leave the countryside, there is a huge potential for pork to replace the backyard production that will quit," Hayes added.

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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