U.S. may be close to shipping more beef to EU-trade
DENVER, Feb 5 (Reuters) – Sales of American beef to the European Union could increase in the next few years as recent talks appear close to resolving issues that have kept the meat out of that market, U.S. government and cattle industry sources told Reuters.
“There are some very friendly discussions going on there regarding beef,” Lynn Heinze, spokesman for the U.S. Meat Export Federation, told Reuters during the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association convention that concluded here this weekend.
The EU opposes the use of hormones in beef production, and has insisted on strict inspection methods to ensure such beef is kept out. Hormone use is common in U.S. beef production and is a practice that has been deemed safe by the World Trade Organization, NCBA officials said.
While the EU is not backing away from its anti-hormone position, EU leaders have indicated a willingness in recent talks to accept other testing methods to ensure that imported beef is hormone free, said Barry Carpenter, a deputy administrator at the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Agricultural Marketing Service.
“They are clearly entertaining a new approach,” Carpenter told Reuters on the sidelines of the convention. “They need the beef.”
The new approach, according to Carpenter, should give the U.S. industry “more flexibility” in supplying beef for that market.
Currently, the United States ships only a small amount of beef to that market.
A key reason for this new approach appears to be that the EU will need to import greater amounts of beef to make up for declining domestic production.
Gregg Doud, the NCBA’s chief economist, said the EU could soon be the world’s second-largest importer of beef.
“The demand factor is definitely driving it,” Doud said of the EU’s new approach.
Some estimates voiced at the NCBA convention are that the EU’s production will fall 500,000 metric tons short of demand this year or next year and the deficit should increase after that.
The EU is expected to import beef to make up for that deficit and it is hoped the United States will get some of that business, USMEF’s Heinze said.