China's major e-commerce platforms are racing to be the first to put U.S. beef under their online sales portfolio, with the arrival of the first commercial shipment of the meat and its products to China due over the weekend, marking the end of a 14-year import ban.
Womai.com, the online platform run by the country's largest food trader China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corp, has stood out as the champion with its offering of 301 kilograms of ribeye since last Friday.
Limited to residents of Beijing only, mainly because of the small amount, the beef is priced at 38 yuan (.6) for 180 grams as a group purchase special, almost 50 percent higher than a similar deal for Australian beef with the same cut and size. More than 1,500 orders have been placed over the past five days.
"The supply team of COFCO has been working closely with U.S. partners and traveling to the U.S. to guarantee the quality of the imported meat is in compliance with the regulations," said the company in a statement released on Monday.
According to the final trade deal agreed by the two governments in May, U.S. beef exported to China must come from cattle no older than 30 months old and free of any hormone, ractopamine or other chemicals forbidden by Chinese law.
The management team of COFCO noted that the high standard has decided the U.S. beef sold in China at the moment could be only of premium price range and cater to a niche clientele. That's also why the group, which also has an expansive retail network offline, chose to sell the meat on their e-commerce platform only, which is mostly visited by well-off office workers and middle-class families.
Yiguo.com, a fresh produce e-commerce platform backed by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, is following as the first supplier in Shanghai with an offering of one metric ton of U.S. beef, varying from Sirloin to ribeye. The meat is currently under the inspection and quarantine of local customs, and is expected to get approval and be available by the end of this week.