South Korea announced Friday it will accept U.S. beef, ending a two-year ban.
"The government of South Korea, through its Animal Health Committee and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has completed its own vigorous review of U.S. beef and found it safe," USMEF President and CEO Philip M. Seng says in a statement released in Seoul. South Korea banned U.S. beef after a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy was found in a imported cow in December 2003. That year, South Korea was the third largest market for U.S. beef and beef variety meat exports at 246,958 metric tons valued at $815.8 million.
The agreement announced Friday limits U.S. imports to boneless beef from cattle under 30 months of age with specific risk materials, such as spinal cord and brain, removed in accordance to the USDA safety protocols. This excludes the highly lucrative beef short ribs markets. Only about 50% of the pre-BSE levels are included in the agreement, worth approximately $450 million.
Variety meat, which made up about 14% U.S. beef product exported to South Korea in 2003, is excluded. Other criteria apparently established in the agreement will be included in a new beef verification program. U.S. beef exports will likely arrive in South Korea in late March once the export verification program is finalized.
USMEF-Korea research shows South Korean traders, retailers and restaurants are ready to welcome back U.S. beef. The number of South Korean consumers who says they would buy U.S. beef has increased from 19% in February 2004 to 35% in July 2005.
"For nearly 18 years, South Korean consumers have appreciated the great taste, consistent high quality and great value they have found in U.S. beef. We look forward to the day very soon now when they will be able to have this experience again," Seng says.