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Beef Sales To South Korea Could Resume

Canada and South Korea moved closer to a deal that would partially restore Canadian beef access and end South Korea’s eight year-old ban, Canada’s agriculture and trade ministers said June 29.

South Korea is the last major beef-importing country to agree to lower its restrictions on Canadian beef since a 2003 outbreak of mad-cow disease (BSE) in Canada, the third-largest beef shipper.

The agreement will allow Canada to ship beef from cattle under 30 months of age to South Korea, and still requires public consultations and legislative approval in South Korea.

“After almost a decade, Canadian beef producers are on track to gain access to the lucrative South Korean market, making our industry and entire economy stronger,” said Canada’s agriculture minister Gerry Ritz, in a statement obtained by Reuters.

Canada and South Korea have resolved technical issues, he said. South Korea will now begin its domestic approval process, said a news release from Ritz and Canadian International Trade minister Ed Fast.

Canada will ask for suspension of a World Trade Organization panel’s proceedings in the dispute once South Korea submits requirements for public consultation. Canada asked the WTO to form a panel to examine South Korea’s ban in August 2009.

The restored access would be worth more than $30 million by 2015 for Canadian cattle farmers. South Korea was Canada’s fourth biggest beef market in 2002, prior to its ban.

Canada’s access for beef under 30 months is virtually the same as access the United States already has to the South Korean beef market, said Brad Wildeman, who runs a Canadian cattle feedlot and is chairman of a trade committee that advised Agriculture Minister Ritz.

“It is a big deal,” he said.

South Korea is a large beef consumer and has particularly strong demand for beef imports now after an outbreak of foot and mouth disease this year forced it to slaughter much of its domestic livestock herd, Wildeman said.

“The timing is really ideal for us to get back in there.”

Prior to South Korea’s 2003 ban, Canada could also ship older beef, though it rarely did so, he said.

China agreed last summer to lower its Canadian beef restrictions, but trade has yet to resume.

Japan allows Canadian beef only from cattle under 21 months of age.

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