The measures taken by the Taiwanese Parliament last week amends food safety laws to allow the import of beef containing ractopamine, a leanness-enhancing additive. The move will end the long-standing dispute, which arose in 2011 when Taiwan banned imports of US beef containing the substance.
Joe Schuele, communications director at the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF), told GlobalMeatNews that although the organisation was confident the markets could be rebuilt, it would take some time to return to the export levels seen in 2010.
He said: “We feel very good about the market because of the track record of strong demand we’ve had in Taiwan. We were the primary importer of beef to Taiwan, so we will rebuild the market, but there’s no question that it will take some time.
“We had exceptional growth in Taiwan for the six-year period before these issues came about, and it was clearly a product that Taiwanese consumers have been very comfortable with and liked very much. It was a very important market for us, so it was very disconcerting over the last two years to see trade slow down, but we’re in the process of finding a solution that is science-based, that protects the consumer and will allow us to resume trade at the levels we had in 2010.”
Taiwan is the ninth-largest market for US beef and, between 2005 and 2010, the value of imports increased from US$40m to US$215m, according to USMEF statistics. However, following the changing of testing protocols, imports of US beef during 2011 dropped by around 9% by volume.
Schuele said the ban had not only affected those products containing ractopamine, but all US beef products. “Importers became very concerned about product seizures or surprise inspections, so it really had a chilling effect on any US beef, even natural beef in which ractopamine wasn’t use in the process,” he said.
“There’s some rebuilding of the market to do – there’s no question about that. It became such a contentious issue that we would expect the negative publicity that surrounded it will cause the slowdown in sales to continue, but we think this allows us the opportunity to get back to our clients and contacts in the trade and begin the process of rebuilding the markets.
“And it’s important to point out the legislation action by itself does not change the regulation regarding ractopamine, it just allows the regulator to. It will therefore be a few weeks before anything really changes in terms of import protocols, as there’s a regulatory process that needs to be followed.
“But we have confidence we can rebuild the market over time.”
In March, Taiwan proposed a partial lift of the ban, which did not appease US exporters and caused protests in Taipei, the Taiwanese capital. Two weeks later, the government increased restrictions.