The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) announced yesterday that Israel has reopened to U.S. beef for the first time since December 2003.
Israel was one of many countries to suspend imports of U.S. beef following confirmation of the first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the U.S. and is one of the last to lift its BSE-related restrictions. The reopening became effective Jan. 13.
Although Israel imposes very strict kosher slaughter and handling requirements on its beef suppliers, USMEF president and chief executive officer Philip Seng said there could be opportunities in the market for some U.S. companies.
“Israel is an important ally to the United States, and it was our first country that we ever did an FTA (free trade agreement) with, so I think that alone is important,” Seng said.
Seng encouraged plants in the U.S. to look at Israel as it is a 75,000 metric ton market. Currently, Argentina and Uruguay are Israel’s largest beef suppliers, followed by Brazil and Paraguay. Israel also imports small volumes from Australia and the European Union.
He said USMEF was going to take another look, from a marketing standpoint, at getting product imported.
Seng also noted the significance of yet another BSE-related market closure coming to an end.
Approximately 76 countries suspended U.S. beef due to BSE, but through a “long and concerted effort,” the list is now only in the single digits, Seng noted.
On Jan. 15, South Africa also reopened to U.S. beef for the first time since 2003. USMEF is still examining the terms of this reopening.