U.S. preparing to lift ban on Argentine beef

by Editor fleischwirtschaft.com
Friday, March 28, 2008

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is preparing the way to lift the ban on imports of Argentine beef and sheepmeat.

Beef and sheepmeat imports from Argentina have been banned since an outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease (FMD) was confirmed in 2001.

The lift of the ban is foreseen for the South Patagonian region only, because there have been no cases of Foot and Mouth disease (FMD) in the South Patagonian region of Argentina since 1976.

This move would probably have limited impact on Argentine beef exports, as this region accounts for only 2% of the total herd (around 1 million head) and the Argentine government continues to severely restrict beef exports to lower domestic beef prices.

Under existing WTO agreements, Argentina has a 20,000 tonne tariff-free quota to the U.S. market. However, given recent low cattle and beef prices, Argentine could still be highly competitive with product sent above quota (paying the 26.7% out of quota tariff), given adequate supplies and government approval – both of which are unlikely in this case.

There has already been opposition to the USDA rule from a number of U.S. senators who believe that the potential for FMD, no matter how small, is not something the U.S. should treat lightly. The ban on beef and lamb imports from other regions of Argentina will remain in place under the new USDA ruling.

At present there is no date set for publishing of the rule for the compulsory 60-day formal public comment period. It is still in development and will change based partly on comments the agency has received on the subject.