July 10, 2008

Nationwide Sales of US Beef Begin in South Korea

Text of report in English by South Korean news agency Yonhap

[Yonhap headline: "Nationwide Sales of US Beef Begin as Washington Prepares To Export Bone-in Beef"]

SEOUL, July 10 (Yonhap) - Nationwide sales of US beef started to gain momentum as Washington prepared to export bone-in beef and other cuts under revised quarantine rules signed in April, industry sources said Thursday.

A local meat importers' association said that after limited sales took place in Seoul last week, US beef has started reaching consumers in cities like Pusan, Taejon and Chonan.

It said that while there are fewer than 10 butcher shops and restaurants handling the beef at present, the number could double by the end of the week as more meat dealers and eateries start selling US beef.

Park Chang-kyu, the chairman of the meat importers' association, said shops that have been reluctant to sell US beef are showing interest as sales have picked up speed and there is less public backlash.

The beef that is being circulated is the 5,300 tons which has been held in frozen storage since October, when Seoul halted all quarantine inspections.

The ban was lifted on June 26 after the revised rules on beef imports went into effect following two rounds of additional talks between Seoul and Washington.

The talks were aimed at alleviating public concern over US beef safety, which caused hundreds of thousands of people to hold daily demonstrations since early May.

The US Department of Agriculture announced earlier in the day that it approved 30 meat suppliers that will be allowed to ship beef under the new age-verification quality system assessment (QSA) programme.

The QSA programme, agreed upon in talks held last month in Washington, limits imports to beef from animals under 30 months old and has stricter rules on specified risk materials, which pose the greatest risk of transmitting mad cow disease to humans if the animals are sick.

The 30-month limit is important because most cattle affected by mad cow disease were older animals.

The 30 meat suppliers include Cargill, Creekstone, Swift and Tyson and companies that had exported beef to South Korea last year. They are expected to start to pack beef for exports within the week.

Sources in South Korea's agriculture ministry said new packages of bone-in beef like ribs, T-bone steaks and intestines could reach the country by the end of the month.

Originally published by Yonhap news agency, Seoul, in English 1012 10 Jul 08.

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