Market News & Headlines >> Hong Kong Lifts U.S. Beef Restrictions

Hong Kong has agreed to further loosen trade restrictions on U.S. beef imports immediately, a move that should boost shipments to what is already one of the largest export markets for U.S. beef and beef products, USDA said on Tuesday.

"This is great news for American ranchers and beef companies," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Hong Kong is already the fourth largest market for U.S. beef and beef product exports, with sales there reaching a historic high of $823 million in 2013. We look forward to expanded opportunities there for the U.S. beef industry now that all trade restrictions are lifted," Vilsack said.

The move will return U.S. access to Hong Kong’s beef market to pre-2003 levels, USDA said. Hong Kong banned all U.S. beef in 2003 following the discovery of the first bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)-positive animal in the United States. It previously relaxed parts of the ban in 2005 and in 2013.

Previously, only deboned beef from all cattle and certain bone-in beef from cattle less than 30 months of age could be shipped from the United States to Hong Kong. Earlier this year, Mexico, Uruguay, Ecuador and Sri Lanka also lifted their longstanding restrictions to provide full access for U.S. beef and beef products.

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) granted the U.S. negligible risk status for BSE. There have been only four BSE-positive cattle found in the U.S and there has never been a recorded case of BSE transmission to a human through American beef.

U.S. beef exports to Hong Kong have been rising at a break-neck pace. January-April shipments of U.S. beef/beef variety meats were up 66% from the same period in 2013 as measured by volume and were up 94% in value. This is after shipments doubled in 2013 from 2012 and rose 142% in value.