Market News & Headlines >> U.S. to Allow Beef Imports From Argentina

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on Wednesday announced that Argentina is now eligible to export fresh beef to the U.S. from cattle slaughtered on and after November 27.

The announcement confirmed earlier reports that the U.S. was about to allow beef imports from Argentina for the first time in 17 years. Argentina's Ministry of Foreign Affairs had said in a statement late on Monday that USDA had deemed Argentine beef to be in line with U.S. sanitation requirements.

There was no word on Wednesday on whether U.S. exports of fresh beef to Argentina had been cleared to resume. Argentina's international trade secretary on Monday told Reuters News Service that Argentina was on the verge of signing a deal with the U.S. that would allow two-way trade of fresh beef between the countries. 

The agreement, expected to be signed within days, would simultaneously open beef imports to both countries, Marisa Bircher said in an interview. "We are negotiating the reopening to happen over the days ahead," she said. "All the technical and administrative questions have been settled."

At a time when Argentina is seeking to boost beef export sales, the restart of exports to the U.S. will allow it to show other prospective buyers that its meat is healthy enough to enter a country with some of the world's toughest sanitary protocols.Argentina will have a 20,000-metric-ton limit on its exports to the U.S., FSIS said. Individual beef plants in Argentina will have to secure USDA approval before Argentine exports to the U.S. can resume.

The reported trade deal would also open a new market for the U.S. cattle sector. The deal would put no limit on the amount of U.S. beef going to Argentina, although demand for U.S. beef is low in that country.

The U.S. stopped importing beef from Argentina about 17 years ago due to  concerns about Argentine cattle being contaminated by foot-and-mouth disease.  "We have eliminated that through a vaccine program in our livestock sector," Bircher said. The last time the U.S. sent fresh beef to Argentina was in 1999, according to Argentina's official statistics agency.