DENVER — Although negative news reports regarding U.S. beef continue to surface in Taiwan, the business outlook in the market is positive, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation. Overall interest and demand has remained strong and consumer reaction has not been as negative as some in the industry had feared, says Joel Haggard, U.S.M.E.F. senior vice-president for the Asia Pacific region.

“Obviously, all the public attention is an unwelcome development,” Mr. Haggard said. “That said, I think the Taiwan[ese] people smell some politics involved in the media reporting on U.S. beef safety. We don’t see the adverse consumer reaction that we saw in Korea last year and the year before in reaction to the public hubbub about U.S. beef.”

Mr. Haggard says the negative publicity surrounding Taiwan’s ban on imports of U.S. ground beef and offal has led to a temporary slump in beef sales, but he expects a quick rebound as news coverage of the issue subsides. “The sales are down probably 20%, that’s a large number, but I expect as the issue fades from the newspaper, sales will return quickly.”

Mr. Haggard also discussed the outlook for bone-in cuts of U.S. beef, which are now allowed in Taiwan (from cattle under 30 months of age) for the first time since 2003. The first shipments of bone-in products are expected to arrive in Taiwan on Jan. 15, and Haggard sees this as a promising development for the Taiwan market.

“Taiwan, before bovine spongiform encephalopathy (B.S.E.), was traditionally a market that took in a lot of bone-in items, especially bone-in short ribs,” he said. “We expect demand to reappear now that bone-in beef can re-enter the market. The fact that importers are placing orders for bone-in beef speaks for the confidence in the market by the trade. There does not seem to be the fear that featuring bone-in beef will illicit an adverse consumer reaction. I guess we’re quite optimistic that the marketing prospects for this traditional category of beef items.”