China’s beef cattle inventory has continually declined since 2004.
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Increasing domestic demand coupled with continuing decline in its domestic herd is leaving China asking “Where’s the beef?” A report by Rabobank (China Beefing up Imports to Supplement Domestic Production) indicates that to cover the supply gap in coming years, China will need to increase beef imports, which are already expected to increase by 15 to 20 percent each year for the next five years.

According to the report, China’s beef cattle inventory has continually declined since 2004 for a variety of reasons, including lack of government support (until recently); low beef cattle production compared with other major beef-producing countries, making China uncompetitive and allowing imports to take up more of the market share; and few Chinese cattle farmers being willing to invest or expand the herd due to a shortage of labor, longer production cycle and higher capital requirements compared to other livestock species.