China online retailer to buy Montana beef

The Associated Press

BILLINGS (AP) China’s largest online retailer has signed a deal with the Montana Stockgrowers Association to buy $200 million worth of Montana beef over the next three years and potentially build a $100 million slaughterhouse in the state.

The agreement was announced Tuesday by President Donald Trump in Beijing.

Details released Wednesday by U.S. Sen. Steve Daines show Chinese retailer agreed to purchase a minimum $50 million of Montana beef in 2018, $70 million in 2019 and $80 million in 2020.

Montana Stockgrowers spokeswoman Kori Anderson says that could equate to 40,000 to 50,000 cattle a year by 2020.

Federal data shows that’s only about 3 percent of annual Montana cattle sales, but Anderson says the construction of a $100 million slaughterhouse would allow for future growth.

A location for the facility hasn’t been determined.

The Billings Gazette reports the agreement came after Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai toured a Gallatin County ranch with U.S. Sen. Steve Daines. It was announced Tuesday when President Donald Trump was in Beijing. Stockgrowers Association Vice President Errol Rice and Miles City rancher Fred Wacker were in Beijing for the signing ceremony.

Construction on the packing plant is expected to start next spring. A location hasn’t been determined.