ND agriculture leaders say new, relaxed importing rules could bring more ND beef to Hong Kong

Agriculture leaders in North Dakota say revised rules that will expand exports of U.S. beef to Hong Kong could benefit ranchers in the state.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced earlier this week new terms under which Hong Kong will now permit the importing of all U.S. beef and beef products, according to the Bismarck Tribune. Previously, only deboned beef and certain bone-in beef from cattle younger than 30 months old could be shipped to Hong Kong.

Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring told the Bismarck newspaper the relaxed rules will open up another market for ranchers in North Dakota and the rest of the country.

"That's just going to create greater opportunities because we're able to get different cuts of meat in there now," Goehring said.

In 2003, Hong Kong banned U.S. beef and beef products following the detection of a bovine spongiform encephalopathy positive animal in Washington. Hong Kong partially reopened its market in 2005 and expanded that in February 2013. Now it's fully open.

"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," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release. "We look forward to expanded opportunities there for the U.S. beef industry now that all trade restrictions are lifted."

Julie Schaff Ellingson, the executive vice president of the North Dakota Stockmen's Association, said it's hard to tell how much more U.S. beef will be imported into Hong Kong, but said it's still a "huge step" in the right direction.

In the first four months of 2014, Hong Kong has imported more than $307 million in beef.

"And we expect that to grow with the new trade rules," Ellingson said.


Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com