Local Beef Prices Falling Ahead of U.S. Shipments

SOUTH KOREA - Since April 23 some 48 tons of U.S. beef has been imported into Korea. Most of that meat has been sold as samples to wholesalers and retailers; very little has gone to consumers. But that's set to change next month when imports of U.S. beef will begin in earnest, with large-scale supplies expected to arrive with the summer, including galbi and other bone-in products.
calendar icon 25 May 2007
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U.S. beef classified as safe

A menu outside Piatti restaurant in Yeouido, Seoul. Piatti is the first Korean restaurant to serve U.S. beef since the ban on U.S. beef was lifted.

So far Korean importers have contracted with four major U.S. beef sellers -- IBP, National, Swift and Excel -- to bring over about 7,200 tons of meat. That's insignificant compared to the 199,000 tons that arrived in 2003, right before the ban on U.S. beef went into effect. But since the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) rated American beef "controlled risk", imports are expected to accelerate. And there may be a change in Korea's regulation that permits only boneless U.S. products from cattle under 30 months to allow imports of bone-in beef around August or September. "With the assurance that there will be a continuous supply, U.S. beef should start to be included on restaurant menus from the end of June," an official with the U.S. Meat Export Federation said.

Bone-in beef talks coming up

With the new OIE rating, lifting all restrictions will be decided after going through eight-step consultations on "import risk analysis" with the U.S. Senator Max Baucus, the chairman of the finance committee, said on Wednesday that the U.S. could take the case to the World Trade Organization should there be discrimination against U.S. beef, and urged Korea to open its market without any exceptions. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) plans to allow bone-in beef, but will go to the negotiating table with the age limit of less than 30 months as its Maginot line. A senior official with the MAF said, "Since most of the beef traded internationally is around 24 months, the U.S. shouldn't have a huge interest in beef from cattle over 30 months."

Source: english.chosun.com

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