China has lifted its ban on bone-in and boneless beef from cattle under 30 months of age from the US.

China stopped importing US beef after a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was discovered in 2003.

The relevant Chinese authorities are to now formulate rules on traceability and quarantine for the beef products.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang signalled the lifting of the ban Tuesday, September 20, and he said that the US has very good beef.

He also said that the two countries should open wider to each other, both in trade and investment.

Welcoming the lifting on the ban, US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that the announcement is a critical first step to restore market access for US beef and beef products.

We look forward to prompt engagement by the relevant authorities for further technical discussions on the specific conditions that will allow trade to resume.

"True access to China's beef market - consistent with science-based, international standards for trade - remains a top priority for the United States.

"The United States produces the highest-quality beef in the world, and China's 1.3 billion consumers are an important market for US producers.

"The Obama Administration and USDA will continue to press trading partners to eliminate unfair barriers to trade that hamper American farmers and ranchers," he said.

Chinese market

In 2003, China's imports of beef totalled $15m (12,000t), including $10m from the United States, according to the USDA.

In recent years, China's imports have risen dramatically, reaching a record $2.3 billion in 2015. Furthermore the USDA forecasts that China will surpass Japan as the second-largest beef importer (after the United States) with imports estimated at 825,000t  in 2016.

Rapidly rising demand for beef has been fuelled by middle-class growth and has made China the fastest-growing beef market in the world, it said.