Tiramisu ice cream (Photo by Wang Yuke/China Daily)
U.S. cheese-producing states, especially Wisconsin, the nation's largest producer, will benefit from China's recent move to reduce tariffs on cheese from 12 percent to 8 percent.
The tariff reduction on U.S. cheese was one of 187 U.S. product categories that China cut tariffs on by 17.3 percent to 7.7 percent.
In 2016, Wisconsin was the fourth-largest exporter of cheese of all kinds to China, accounting for more than .8 million in sales, according to the Agriculture Marketing Resource Center at Iowa State University. Exports to China have risen 59 percent over the last year, according to the center.
Total U.S. cheese production in 2016 was 5.53 million metric tons, up 3.4 percent from 2015, according to the center, and Wisconsin led the nation in cheese production in 2015 with 1.41 million tons.
"China is tracking to become the world's largest cheese importer in the years ahead. It is critical that the U.S. dairy industry take part in that growth," said Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council. "This decision by China will chip away at the tariff disadvantage U.S. suppliers face in China and improve U.S. competitiveness in a rapidly expanding market."
Prior to the tariff reduction, it was difficult for U.S. states to break into the Chinese market, according to Jaime Castaneda, senior vice-president of the nonprofit U.S. Dairy Export Council, which seeks to boost demand for U.S. dairy products abroad.
China relied on New Zealand for its cheese imports before it cut the tariff on U.S. cheese, but China's cheese demand has increased more than seven fold over the last 10 years to 100,000 tons, according to Milk magazine, and the country is looking to other markets.
With the tariff now at 8 percent, U.S. producers can be much more competitive in China's market.