The US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) is working with China’s Alibaba Group to sell US pork on Chinese online retail platforms. Both Juhuasuan and T-Mall, two websites operated by Alibaba Group, are going to start selling US pork products directly to Chinese customers. The first round of sales lasted from April 26 to 28 and nearly 3,000 packages of pork were sold during the three-day sale, which attracted 300,000 shoppers. As a trade association committed to increasing the value and profitability of the US meat industry by enhancing demand for their products in export markets, USMEF recognizes a large export market in China where prices are growing annually due to the high demand from Chinese consumers. In 2015, 339,055 metric tons of US pork, valued at $700 million, was exported to China, making it the 4th largest export market for American pork globally, and 2nd largest in Asia after Japan.
The pork being sold in Asia originates from different states in the US, produced by meat companies such as CK International, Ltd. from Iowa, Min Global Inc. from Illinois, and Hormel Foods International Corporation from Minnesota. All three states are top among the pork exporters in the United States. Iowa is the largest pork producing and exporting state in the US, with pork production worth about $4.1 billion overall, $511 million of which derives from pork exports internationally. Illinois and Minnesota also export over $180 million worth of pork. In addition, all three top pork producing states connect tightly with China in economic trade and investment fields. China is the top goods export destination in Asia for all three, valued at over $3 billion for Iowa and Minnesota, and over $6 billion for Illinois.
The Alibaba group is no stranger to working with US agricultural producers and other retailers. In 2015, the Washington Apple Commission teamed up with Alibaba to promote Washington’s apples in the Chinese market and ended up selling apples to 350 million customers on T-Mall. Similarly, American cherry growers have gained access to the Chinese online market through that same portal. Costco, an American retail giant, also collaborated with that arm of Alibaba to enter the enormous Chinese market in 2014.
Zhengqi Wang is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and is a student at American University.