Senior-level buyers from some of the top red meat importers in China and Hong Kong toured the heartland of America with the U.S. Meat Export Federation last month, getting a top-to-bottom education on U.S. agriculture and the red meat industry.
The 13-person visiting team included the presidents of four of that region's largest red meat importers in addition to several senior officers and the supply chain director of Pizza Hut Hong Kong Management Ltd., one of Pizza Hut's largest international franchisees with operations in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Developed with funding support from the Beef Checkoff Program and the Pork Checkoff, the team of buyers toured pork and beef processing plants in Nebraska, cattle ranches in Kansas and Nebraska and numerous retail outlets. The group also participated in a Meat 101 class conducted by Dr. Terry Houser, associate professor at Kansas State University, who reviewed the quality and sensory aspects of U.S. pork and beef.
Before returning to China, the visiting team received briefings from U.S. beef and pork exporters and participated in the product showcase at the May USMEF board of directors meeting that brought 120 international buyers together with 21 U.S. exporters at a session designed specifically to enhance U.S. red meat exports.
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"The meeting with the Chinese team was the highlight of the entire week for me," said Mark Boyd of Porky Products. "I think the quality of the customers who came from China and Hong Kong was exceptionally high. Meeting these buyers and having them sample our products enabled us to generate immediate sales to new customers that we otherwise would not have encountered."
The positive sentiments were echoed by Eric Brandt, president of One World Beef, which represents Harris Ranch and Brandt Beef.
"These meetings are a springboard to new business with qualified and respected buyers," said Brandt. "These are the types of meetings we strive to attain and are grateful to be part of. We can only hope that the governments (of China and the U.S.) do the right thing and open up new (beef) trade between our countries so that commerce can begin. It will be a great day for American beef producers to finally have free access to a country where there is a lot of demand for U.S. beef."
The visit by the team also earned high marks for the convenience it provides to U.S. exporters – bringing qualified buyers together as a group.
"This allowed me to meet with 10 to 12 customers at one time, and to save the $10,000 or more it would cost for a business trip to that region," said Boyd.
The team of buyers gave its own high marks on the visit, according to Ming Liang, USMEF-Shanghai marketing director. "They indicated that they learned quite a lot from the trip," he said. "They became familiar with more U.S. plants and companies that could potentially be future partners."
The China/Hong Kong region is a significant one for U.S. red meat exports. Through the first four months of 2014, it is the No. 3 market in both volume and value for U.S. pork, purchasing 140,927 metric tons (310.7 million pounds) valued at $316.5 million, increases of 4% in volume and 10% in value.
And while the People's Republic of China still bans U.S. beef, Hong Kong is the United States' No. 3 export market in terms of value, $307.5 million (up 94% versus 2013), and No. 4 in volume (46,478 metric tons or 102.5 million pounds), a 66% increase over last year.