American has an opportunity in 2012 to capitalize on the emerging middle class in China who is seeking more protein and higher quality food.

William Westman, Vice President for International Trade at the Meat Institute, recently examined China and other Asian markets for a crowd at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 93rd Annual Meeting.

“There are tremendous opportunities in China,” said Westman. “You have four times the population of the United States on two-thirds the size of the land and 225 cities anticipated to have populations of at least 1 million people by 2025.”

China isn’t able to produce enough food for its growing population and must turn to other countries for help. The country has made attempts to improve it agricultural infrastructure and productivity through new technologies but water shortages limit progress. China is starting to use its foreign exchange reserves which total more than $3 trillion.

Westman said China is the largest market for U.S. ag exports, stating trade with China is up more than 1,000 percent in 2002. The country will invest primarily in pork and poultry, but beef can capture a growing market as more five-star hotels are opening in China.

“The demand for our beef is accelerating in north Asia, but we have to have patience,” said Westman.