US gears up to supply beef to EU

US producers are already gearing up to supply the EU market, following the decision to allow 20,000t of multi-origin beef into the community duty free.

Speaking at Anuga last week, John Brook, regional director for the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF), said the first US beef to be sent under the new agreement arrived in mid-August, and volumes were already showing signs of increasing.

Previously the US was allowed to export 11,500t of beef from the Non-Hormone Treated Cattle (NHTC) programme at 20% duty.

The deal to allow the 20,000t of beef, still under the NHTC programme, was struck following nearly two decades of disagreement over the banning of hormone treated US beef by the EU and retaliatory action by the US.

The change in policy is part of a two-phase deal, with the second phase potentially seeing the US quota rise to 40,000t in three years and the dropping of all remaining retaliatory duties on EU products by the US, said Brook.

However, that decision would depend on a number of conditions. One of which that will pave the way for the increase will be the acceptance by the EU of the use of anti-microbial washes on carcases.

But the deal has not met with universal approval in the US, Brook said: Its been a controversial deal. A large part of the US industry is still upset and wants to know when the EU will accept hormone treated beef.

But the industry has responded to the change in quota: At this point were already seeing increased volumes on what was sent this time last year. And weve removed 20% of the cost. Brook added he expected volumes to hit 10,000t in the first year and continue to rise.

He said the UK remained a reluctant market for US beef, which was partly down to the higher cost. But he said there was an opportunity in the quality restaurant market, and the USMEF would be looking to market to that sector in the future.

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