LA PAZ, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- The opening up of China's market to Bolivian beef was a highlight of 2019, according to Bolivian cattle ranchers.
In 2019, the cattle-ranching sector saw its "longstanding dream" of exporting beef to China come true, Oscar Ciro Pereyra, president of Bolivia's Cattle-ranchers Confederation (Congabol), told Xinhua.
The two countries have had trade deals on Bolivian quinoa, coffee and soybean imports.
On Aug. 28, Bolivia made its first-ever shipment of beef to China, dispatching about 100 tons of boneless frozen beef.
Bolivian cattle breeders have sought to make the most of China's open market, following last year's sales of 3,000 tons of beef, which "generated 16 million U.S. dollars" for the Latin American country, said Pereyra.
Another highlight of 2019 was an export agreement with Russia, he said.
As part of Congabol's objective to make Bolivia one of the top 15 exporters of beef in the world, the sector aims to continue to diversify its export market.
Bolivia currently exports meat products to such countries as Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela and Vietnam. China, with a population of about 1.4 billion, is a market with enormous potential, according to Pereyra.
Bolivia is "free of foot-and-mouth disease through vaccination" and that status "has opened up the meat market to us," Pereyra said.
"In 2020, we must work towards obtaining certification as a country with negligible risk of mad cow," Pereyra added.
Bolivia has some 10 million heads of cattle, equivalent to 260,000 tons of beef, and the sector saw an average growth rate of 4 percent in 2019, according to Congabol.
About 200,000 tons of meat is earmarked for domestic consumption in Bolivia. The eastern department of Santa Cruz is Bolivia's leading beef producer, accounting for 43 percent of the total production, followed by the northeastern Beni department with 31 percent.
Gary Rodriguez, general manager of the Bolivian Institute of Foreign Trade (IBCE), described China's move to open its market to Bolivian beef as a watershed event in the country's history, one that provided the sector with a great opportunity for growth.
"This is a great opportunity to expand the market for meat and other value-added products," Rodriguez told Xinhua.