DENVER – An enhanced initiative to address the impact of non-science-based import regulations on US beef exports to South Korea and help regain what was once the No. 3 export market for the US beef industry was announced May 4 by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

USMEF plans to utilize $1 million in competitive cost-share grant funds awarded to it last week through the US Department of Agriculture's Market Access Program (MAP) to beef up its current efforts to increase sales of beef and beef products in that country. It will also seek an additional $10 million in MAP funding in 2011 to implement a five-year strategy to further expand US beef exports to that nation.

"The US meat industry has faced unprecedented and unscientific technical barriers to trade what, in the name of food safety, have unnecessarily restricted US exports," said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. "These new resources will enable us to expand and intensify our efforts with a goal of the complete restoration of the beef market in Korea."

In 2003 prior to the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the US, South Korea was the US’s third-largest beef export market. It imported 246,595 metric tons (543.6 million lbs.) of US beef valued at $815 million that year. Since then, South Korea has imported a total of 253,738 metric tons of product – with much of that coming in 2010. Export levels in 2010 still remained below half of pre-BSE levels.

USMEF said the new initiative is an important step in its long-term strategy to reach out to key stakeholders in South Korea and provide the necessary resources to build Korean consumer confidence in US beef, educate consumers and retailers about US beef safety assurance and inspection systems, promote science-based decision-making and the adoption of international standards to facilitate trade and deepen understanding of the science behind the rules adopted by international standards-setting bodies.

As a result, USMEF is developing the framework for a five-year, $10 million campaign targeting this key market. It will seek additional funds for this strategic plan from USDA's MAP program through its 2012 fiscal year Unified Export Strategy (UES) market development application.

"This integrated strategy will support and complement the ongoing efforts of the US government to convince Korea as well as governments throughout North Asia to open their markets to US beef on the basis of science-based international standards," Seng said.

The proposed free-trade agreement (FTA) between the US and South Korea will dovetail perfectly with this enhanced initiative. The goal is to help the US regain the position as the No. 1 imported beef in Korea, reaching and potentially exceeding the peak imported beef market share of 68 percent attained in 2003.

The FTA, once approved, will reduce duties on US beef from 40 percent to zero over 15 years, making it more affordable for a broader range of Korean consumers.