South Korea Lifts Suspension On U.S. Beef Imports

Tuesday, June 26th 2007, 7:07 am
By: News On 6

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ South Korea lifted a suspension on imports of American beef from two U.S. meat companies Tuesday after the U.S. confirmed that three shipments meant for domestic consumption were exported by mistake, officials said.

South Korea shut its doors to American beef in December 2003 after an outbreak of mad cow disease in the U.S. It partially reopened its market last year, but agreed to accept only boneless meat from cattle under 30 months old, which are thought to be less at risk of carrying the illness.

Seoul in late May and early June suspended imports from six facilities of two U.S. meat companies: Minneapolis, Minn.-based Cargill Inc. and Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods Inc. for exporting beef that was intended for U.S. domestic consumption.

The Agriculture Ministry said Tuesday that it had received confirmation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that two U.S. companies _ identified by South Korean officials as Am-Mex International and Midamar Corp. _ shipped the meat to South Korea after purchasing it from both Cargill and Tyson.

Quarantine authorities ``determined that six Cargill and Tyson processing facilities had nothing to do with the export of beef intended for domestic consumption,'' the ministry said in a statement.

Seoul's move will allow the U.S. to issue quarantine certificates again to the six Cargill and Tyson facilities, said Kim Do-soon, an official handling the issue at the government's National Veterinary Research & Quarantine Service.

Without the certificates, no imported meat can pass customs inspection in South Korea, Kim said.

The United States welcomed Seoul's decision.

``We are pleased that Korea will allow the resumption of shipments from these plants,'' Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said in Washington. ``Despite some start-up problems, beef exports to Korea are rapidly increasing.''

U.S. exporters have sold more than 500 tons of U.S. beef to South Korea this year, Johanns said.

South Korea was the third-largest foreign market for American beef, after Japan and Mexico, before it banned U.S. beef imports.

Johanns also said that a U.S. delegation is in Japan to begin technical discussions, the next step in the process to more fully open the Japanese market to U.S. beef and beef products.

Since the United States was classified as a controlled risk country by the World Organization for Animal Health, it has been urging its trading partners to reopen export markets to the full spectrum of U.S. cattle and beef products.