Korea Lifts Ban on Imports of U.S. Beef

South Korea is ending its three-year ban with first shipments set to arrive later this month.

South Korea, is reopening its doors to U.S. beef. A three-year ban, imposed after the first U.S. find of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in 2003, has long been a friction point between the two countries. According to wire reports, boneless beef from cattle under 30 months of age from 36 approved packers will start arriving in the country later this month.

Korean officials told reporters that U.S. beef is safe in terms of international guidelines, but that they will continue to check imports on safety issues carefully. Those shipments will be examined for prohibited, or high-risk materials. This was a point of contention when the Japanese market reopened and a few weeks later prohibited materials were found in a shipment of veal.

Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns commented, in a press statement: "Although the agreement was signed back in January, several months of cooperative effort between our two countries has been necessary, which included two visits by Korean audit teams to confirm the efficacy of the U.S. inspection system."

In 2003, the United States exported more than $814 million worth of beef to Korea, with boneless beef amounting to about $449 million, according to USDA.

"Trade resumption in boneless beef is the first step in normalizing trade of beef and beef products with Korea," Johanns adds. "We look forward to expanding our access to the Korean market and other export markets to achieve trade that is consistent with international guidelines."

Last week, during the Farm Progress Show, Johanns told visiting media that he felt time to reopening of the Korean market would be measured "in weeks."

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