China imported 1.7m tonnes of beef between January and September, another new record for the first nine months, but the rate of increase has slowed down. In the same period in 2020, China imported just under 1.6m tonnes.

Despite the suspension of beef exports to China from Brazil at the end of the first week in September, they still increased their supply to China from 605,366 int the first nine months of 2020 to 683,480t this year, representing 40% of all China’s beef imports.

The next biggest supplier is Argentina on 352,968t, which is a couple of thousand tonnes less than the same period last year.

This is because Argentina imposed a ban on exports for a period and resumption of exports comes with restrictions.

That has created an opportunity for Uruguay which increased its beef exports to China in the first nine months from 171,868t last year to 234,628t this year.

Share growth

New Zealand has also grown its share of the Chinese beef market to 159,257t, up from 135,764t in the same period last year.

However, Australian beef sales to China at 109,804t have collapsed compared with last year, when it supplied 214,318t. This is because a number of Australian factories have had their approval withdrawn and there have also been political tensions between Australia and China.

The success story in the Chinese beef market in 2021 has been the USA, which has grown sales in the first nine months of this year to 99,399t, up from 11,732t in the same period last year.


China’s sheepmeat imports continued to grow this year, reaching 332,655t compared with 287,204t in the first nine months last year.

New Zealand is the main supplier, sending 204,401t in this period, which is over 60% of China’s imports.

Next in line is Australia on 109,813t, with Uruguay next on 15,225t and just over 3,000t between Argentina and Chile.


The big issue now is what happens with Brazil supplying China. It has been out of the market for the past six weeks and that leaves a huge deficit in Chinese supply, as well as a big surplus of beef in Brazil.

There are hopes in Brazil that the situation is moving towards resolution, but, until it happens, beef farmers around the world will be anxious about an overhang of Brazilian beef on the market.

What will catch Irish farmers' eyes is the rapid progress the US has made in getting re-established in the market following the resolution of its trade dispute at the start of last year.

Up until May 2020, Ireland was exporting more beef to China than the US and now the US has 99,000t of beef into China for the first nine months of this year, while Irish exports remain suspended.

(Data supplied by Bord Bia's China office)