Hong Kong lifts restrictions on US beef exports

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, June 17, 2014 - The United States and Hong Kong have agreed on new terms and conditions that pave the way for the full range of U.S. beef and beef product exports to Hong Kong - consistent with access prior to December 2003, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

"This is great news for American ranchers and beef companies," said Vilsack. "Hong Kong is already the fourth-largest market for U.S. beef and beef product exports, with sales there reaching a historic high of $823 million in 2013.”

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Under the new terms, Hong Kong will permit the import of the full range of U.S. beef and beef products, effective today. Previously, only deboned beef from all cattle and certain bone-in beef from cattle less than 30 months of age could be shipped from the U.S. to Hong Kong. Earlier this year, Mexico, Uruguay, Ecuador and Sri Lanka also lifted their longstanding restrictions to provide full access for U.S. beef and beef products.

"Last year, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) granted the United States negligible risk status for BSE, further affirming the safety of U.S. beef and beef products," Vilsack said. "We welcome this move by Hong Kong and will continue our efforts to break down barriers and expand access for high-quality, safe and wholesome U.S. food and agricultural products in Hong Kong and around the world."

In December 2003, Hong Kong banned U.S. beef and beef products following the detection of a bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)-positive animal in the United States (the first of only four cases of the disease ever discovered in the U.S.).

In December 2005, Hong Kong partially reopened its market to allow imports of deboned U.S. beef from cattle aged 30 months or younger produced under a special program for Hong Kong and expanded access to include certain bone-in cuts from cattle less than 30 months of age in February 2013. While Hong Kong is officially part of China, it serves as its own customs and quarantine administration zone and so maintains its own rules and regulations.

Experts in the U.S. and countries around the world have confirmed that U.S. beef is safe, with extremely low risk of BSE, which is commonly known as mad cow disease. There has never been a recorded case of BSE transmission to a human through American beef.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association welcomed the development. NCBA President Bob McCan said it's not only great news for U.S. cattlemen and women, but also a strong assurance the safeguards put in place since 2003 are working to build international market demand.

McCan said the USDA's final rule dealing with BSE “showed our trading partners that we stand behind internationally accepted science,” adding that it has brought the country's beef industry to the point where it is now exporting more than $6 billion of been a year.

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