Over the past 18 to 24 months, China has become the fastest-growing market in the world for imported beef. In 2013, China’s beef imports increased nearly 400 percent in value from the previous year, reaching $1.33 billion. Through August, China’s 2014 imports are 17 percent ahead of last year’s pace at $961 million.

This is a major source of frustration for the U.S. beef industry, because China is one of the few markets that never reopened to U.S. beef following the December 2003 BSE case. China’s major beef suppliers are Australia, Uruguay and New Zealand, with Argentina and Canada also serving the market.

Thad Lively, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) senior vice president for trade access, explains that while efforts to regain access to China are progressing, an announcement that the market is reopening is not imminent. Lively says that he is encouraged by recent developments, including a technical review conducted this summer by officials from China, but this is a difficult trade issue that often requires a long time to resolve.