US meat giant Tyson Foods is said to be planning to set up a beef processing plant in Kazakhstan.

The UK’s Financial Times newspaper reported today (23 May) Tyson in talks with the authorities in Kazakhstan and has discussed an initial investment of US$200m on the project.

But the newspaper suggested that it is China, rather than Kazakhstan itself, which Tyson is targeting through the move.

Citing “three people with knowledge of the discussions,” it suggests that Kazakstan is projecting itself as an “agricultural powerhouse on China’s border” and a location which would allow companies such as Tyson to avoid high tariffs on US goods and provide ‘back door access’ into China.

According to the FT story, Tyson’s prospective deal could see it producing up to five million tonnes of beef a year in Kazakhstan.

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By GlobalData

However, in a statement sent to just-food, Tyson played down the story, saying it has not yet formalised plans for a plant in the country.

“One of our growth strategies is to expand our global business, so it’s not unusual for us to consider various international opportunities. We’ve visited Kazakhstan and have interest in the nation’s future food production efforts, however, we have not formalised plans for a project there,” it said.

“As we’ve previously reported, we are expanding in other parts of the world. Our 2018 acquisition of Keystone Foods includes operations in Asia Pacific and our pending purchase of poultry production assets from BRF includes facilities in Thailand and Europe.” 

The Washington and Beijing governments are embroiled in a trade war which has impacted those US businesses selling their products into China. 

China has a need to import foreign produced meat, pork in particular, because of its domestic industry being ravaged by an outbreak of African swine fever.