China livestock industry signals significant support for sustainable beef

05 April 2019

At the end of March, the China Animal Agriculture Association, supported by Solidaridad, became the first Chinese member of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. This new membership comes at an important time in China’s livestock industry, with domestic production providing the vast majority of beef required to fulfill the country’s demand.

Solidaridad facilitates in China Animal Agriculture Association joining Global Roundtable For Sustainable Beef (GRSB) as its first Chinese member.

Solidaridad facilitates in China Animal Agriculture Association joining Global Roundtable For Sustainable Beef (GRSB) as its first Chinese member.

As China’s livestock sector is faced with new challenges from disease outbreaks to environmental and resource constraints, the growing demand for meat is fueling rising beef imports. In 2018 China imported over one-third of global beef trade volume, holding its position as the largest beef-consuming and importing country in the world, with Brazil as the largest supplier of beef to China. At the same time, China is the third largest beef producer in the world with domestic production accounting for 80% of China’s beef consumption.

First Chinese member of Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef

In 2018 China Animal Agriculture Association and Solidaridad jointly launched the China Roundtable for Sustainable Livestock. Through the ongoing cooperation between the two organizations, the China Animal Agriculture Association has now joined the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) as the first Chinese member. Their participation demonstrates China’s commitment to sustainable beef production and sourcing, and also recognizes the country’s important role and responsibility to promote sustainable livestock worldwide. 

On 27-29 March, the China Ruminant Committee held the Second Ruminant Conference and 2019 Sustainability Summit. The event was co-organized by the China Animal Agriculture Association, China Dairy Industry Association and Solidaridad in Jinan City of Shandong Province China. The conference gathered over 700 participants from the Chinese beef, lamb and dairy sectors.

Following the signing ceremony between the China Animal Agriculture Association and Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, a more intimate meeting for the second China Roundtable for Sustainable Livestock took place in the afternoon. The meeting’s aims were to set goals and define priorities for the roundtable initiative. Beef is one of the sectors included under the broader framework of the China Roundtable for Sustainable Livestock, which also covers pork, poultry, aquaculture and feed sectors. 

Multi-stakeholder cooperation to promote sustainable beef production

Gert van der Bijl, Solidaridad’s international programme coordinator for livestock, emphasized in his opening speech the need for multi-stakeholder cooperation to promote sustainability in the industry. He also stressed the need to share experiences from other regional and global sustainability initiatives in the livestock sector. For example, Brazil has managed to increase beef production while reducing deforestation in the Amazon. 

While we need to work together on a common agenda, it isn’t about being the same, but understanding and respecting each other’s differences.

It was recognized that livestock systems vary greatly between countries and regions, with Van der Bijl remarking: “Cooperation starts with working on building trust. While we need to work together on a common agenda, it isn’t about being the same, but understanding and respecting each other’s differences.”

Gert Van der Bijl, international programme coordinator for livestock, gives the opening speech for Solidaridad as a co-organizer for the conference

Gert Van der Bijl, international programme coordinator for livestock, gives the opening speech for Solidaridad as a co-organizer for the conference

A healthy environment for a healthy economy

Ingvild Anderessen Saevrud, environmental counselor at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Beijing, noted Norway’s commitment to reduce emissions and deforestation from supply chains including livestock, soy and palm oil in her keynote speech.

In the long term, ensuring a healthy environment is also good for the success of the economy.

The Embassy is also working together with the government and companies to ensure a joint agenda on the sustainable supply chain. Saevrud emphasized: “In the long term, ensuring a healthy environment is also good for the success of the economy”. 

The Roundtable meeting included representatives from the industry association, research institutes, industry experts, import companies, China Academy of Science, embassy representatives and civil society organizations. Stakeholders remarked on the key priorities and concerns in the industry, particularly for the beef sector in China - from land and feed availability to the use of antibiotics and animal health. Professor Fachun Wan, Researcher from the Shandong Province Animal Husbandry Bureau, shared an overview of China’s beef industry. He emphasized the importance of government in China but also added that he would like to see more examples of how to implement on the ground from other countries, from which China can learn. 

The more actors you can bring together at the same time, and the more time you spend together, the more comfortable stakeholders will feel together.

Ruaraidh Petra, executive director of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef shared an overview of the organization. Petre said: “It takes time to set-up a roundtable and to get all of the relevant stakeholders on board. The more actors you can bring together at the same time, and the more time you spend together, the more comfortable stakeholders will feel together”. Multi-stakeholder platforms are necessary for a long-term and sustainable solution by bringing together all relevant players for joint dialogue and exchange. 

Growing demands on domestic beef production call for efficiency

Qiangde Liu, secretary general of the beef department at China Animal Agriculture Association, led and moderated the roundtable meeting. He stressed that while the industry is focusing on improving domestic production efficiency, these efforts have not been able to keep up with the growing demands for beef consumption, leading to China’s increasing beef imports.  

China, together with the world, has to address issues of greenhouse gas emissions, animal welfare, and environmental protection.

Liu, who also recalled his visit to Brazil where he witnessed deforestation caused by the expansion of cattle ranching and soy production, said: “China, together with the world, has to address issues of greenhouse gas emissions, animal welfare, and environmental protection, but also deal with its domestic issues of land, water and air pollution, with stricter environmental management and higher standards. This all demands that we take better care of the industry, and at the same time take better care of the environment and use our resources more efficiently”. 

To conclude the meeting, the participants agreed that for the roundtable to function successfully, a joint effort and contributions from each stakeholder is required. They also recognized that more stakeholders need to be engaged in the process. Solidaridad and China Animal Agriculture Association will lead the process and jointly recruit members to the roundtable to carry out the work plan.  

Read more about Solidaridad's Livestock programmes

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