Chinese beef and veal imports are up 60% on the corresponding period last year, reaching 295,000 tonnes, according to the AHDB (the body for English beef and lamb).

Southern American suppliers, such as Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina together account for close to 65% of grass-fed beef imported into China in the first half of this year, according to the report.

Brazilian beef accounted for over 30% of all Chinese imports in the six-month period, displacing beef from Australia and Uruguay.

The Chinese Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine department has approved another five plants in Brazil to supply beef into China, bringing the total to 16.

These are all located in major beef producing regions in Brazil, which suggests that Brazilian beef exports to China will grow significantly this year, underpinned by the weak economy affecting domestic beef consumption, according to the AHDB.

Despite losing market share to Brazil, Uruguay has been the second biggest supplier of beef to China in 2016, reporting an increase of almost a quarter in the number of shipments compared to this time last year.

The AHDB expect Uruguayan beef production to reach 600,000 tonnes this year, its highest level since 2006. The additional beef is projected to be entirely directed to the export market, as the domestic market is set to remain stagnant.

Given that China accounts for half of all Uruguay beef exports, it is likely that shipments from Uruguay will also continue to be at elevated levels, according to the report.

A contraction in production and the competitive pressure from the low-cost suppliers has seen Australian beef exports fall by 15% compared to the first six months of 2015.

Shipments from Australia accounted for less than 20% of all imports into China so far this year, despite Australia supplying half of all China’s beef and veal requirements less than two years ago, according to the AHDB.

Irish Beef

In late February 2015, it was announced that China had lifted its ban on Irish beef, and in January a Chinese inspection team visited Ireland for 10 days

Chinese investors will play an influential role in the global beef market over the next decade, with China’s beef demand set to grow by 2.2m tonnes by 2025 according to Rabobank.

However, an agreement has yet to be finalised between the Irish and Chinese Government's before trade of Irish beef to China can commence.