The US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Market Expo, a market education program that allows producers and other USMEF members to observe international market development activities for US pork and beef, began this week in Shanghai, China.
The tour started with an overview of USMEF's marketing objectives in China and an explanation of several market access issues that impact US meat exports into the region. This was followed by a briefing from the US Agricultural Trade Office in Shanghai, which focused on the business climate in China for US agricultural products and detailed the US government's efforts to expand trade between the two countries.
Online meat sales
The group then received a presentation from Yiguo.com, a food distribution company that has emerged as one of the region's leaders in e-commerce. Yiguo became the first company to sell food online in China in 2005, and its first online meat sales came in 2009. Today, the company offers self-operated food delivery in five of China's major metropolitan areas and serves customers through third-party delivery companies in 48 additional cities.
E-commerce exploded in China
"E-commerce has just exploded in China and it's only going to get bigger," said Dean Meyer of Rock Rapids, Iowa, a producer of corn, soybeans, cattle and hogs who serves on the Iowa Corn Growers Association board of directors. "This can expedite movement of more US meat into China because the companies engaged in e-commerce appreciate the quality and consistency of our products. We already see these opportunities on the pork side, and there's strong demand for US beef if we can only gain access to the market."
Meeting pork importers
Retail visits were next on the delegation's agenda. The USMEF team also had an opportunity to meet with pork importers, including Shanghai Jin Hai Food Co., one of China's largest processors of cured pork. Shanghai Zhengpu Trade Co., a pork distributor and industry leader in online merchandising, also provided the group with a company overview and a tour of its pork processing plant.
Investment in developing new products
"I was very impressed with how innovative these businesses are, and the strategies they've developed to expand their sales," said Karen Grant of Meadow Grove, Nebraska, who serves on the board of directors of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association. "For example, the efforts they make to attract and retain quality workers and their investment in developing new products were very interesting to me, and I'm hopeful that this leads to new opportunities for US pork."