A group that’s just back from a trade mission reports countries that banned Iowa beef over B-S-E concerns could start buying it again, any time. Stan Zylstra recently returned from a trip with other Iowa Beef Producers to Seoul, Korea; Tokyo, Japan; and Taiwan. He says they met a lot of people and talked about that region’s history of buying lots of U.S. beef products.
Many Asian nations halted imports after the discovery of the first case of Mad Cow disease in an American animal in December 2003. The exception was Taiwan, Zylstra says, which reopened imports and bought a lot of U.S. beef from May until June when the second Mad Cow case was found. He says during that time Taiwan’s Health Ministry announced all orders in the pipeline could continue, so importers ordered so much beef, they’ve told him they got enough to last them till the end of the year.
Zylstra says the science shows our beef is safe, saying Americans and Iowa consumers know that. He says most people in Japan, Korea and Taiwan know that also, but it’s “kind of a political issue.” The farmer says hotels and restaurants in Asia are eager for imports of U.S. beef to resume because it’s a “high-end” product they want for the luxury market. In retail stores, businesspeople told him they had customers asking for U.S. beef.
Zylstra went on the Iowa trade mission with Muscatine farmer Dan Peterson, chair of the Iowa Beef Industry Council. They checked out their competition in the meat-export market. They ate quite a bit of beef from Australia and New Zealand, and he says “It certainly does not meet the quality of U.S. beef.” Zylstra says Iowa farmers would get a higher price for beef if we resumed exporting some to foreign markets.
Countries like Korea and Japan do have their own cattle herds, though they are comparatively small, and Zylstra says the barriers to U.S. beef have pushed their prices to unbelievable levels. Demand remains strong with their supply much shorter, so prices are a lot higher. Zylstra was told by one Korean farmer that before the trade barriers erected in reaction to BSE, he was getting 200 dollars (in U.S. dollars) for an animal, and now he’s getting two-thousand.
Many Asian countries also import animal parts not popular here, like tongues and intestines, which could bring premium prices on the market but right now are being made into pet food and are worth very little. Zylstra farms near Hull, in northwest Iowa.