U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) said it is the first time since 2003 that U.S. lamb and lamb products have regained access to Taiwan. Dr. Dennis Stiffler, CEO of Mountain States Rosen and USMEF vice chair, thanked U.S. agricultural and trade officials for their efforts to restore market access for U.S. lamb.
“This is the culmination of many months of work by U.S. government officials, as well as the U.S. meat industry, and we are very excited to resume exporting lamb to Taiwan,” said Stiffler. “Taiwanese consumers enjoy high-quality, grain-fed meat, as evidenced by the success U.S. beef and pork have achieved in the market. The U.S. lamb industry is anxious to capitalize on significant opportunities in Taiwan’s restaurant and retail sectors.”
U.S. lamb lost access to several key markets, including Taiwan, following the first U.S. case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in December 2003. The market closures were due to concerns related to scrapie, a disease similar to BSE. Asian markets that remain closed to U.S. lamb include Japan and South Korea.
“Reopening these markets has been a top priority for the lamb industry, because lack of access in Asia has been a significant obstacle for U.S. lamb exports,” Stiffler explained. “Weakness of the Mexican peso and Canadian dollar has recently reduced exports to our two largest markets. So now more than ever, U.S. lamb needs a broader range of alternative destinations. Our industry has had some recent success in the Middle East, Central America and the Caribbean, but we really need greater access to Asian markets in order to meet our export goals. We see the reopening of Taiwan as a great first step.”
Listen to USMEF’s weekly audio report here: USMEF Report on Taiwan’s Reopening to U.S. Lamb
Last year Taiwan imported nearly 17,714 metric tons (mt) of lamb and sheep meat products, valued at more than $74 million. In terms of value, the market was split about evenly between Australia and New Zealand – the only two supplying countries currently serving Taiwan. It was the 11th-largest export for New Zealand lamb and sheep meat in 2015 and was Australia’s 12th-largest market.
A proceeding is also underway in Japan in which regulators are examining the possibility of restoring access for U.S. lamb. Pre-BSE, Japan was a leading destination for U.S. lamb exports. Last year Japan’s lamb and sheep meat imports were slightly above Taiwan’s in volume (18,144 mt), but significantly higher in value at $133.6 million. Australia supplies about 70 percent of Japan’s lamb and sheep meat. The remaining share comes mostly from New Zealand, though Japan also imports small volumes from Iceland.
“Prior to closing, Japan was an excellent market for U.S. lamb,” Stiffler said. “We greatly look forward to rebuilding consumer demand for U.S. lamb in Japan and hope that this opportunity presents itself in the near future.”
Through the first quarter of 2016, U.S. lamb and lamb variety meat exports totaled 2,676 mt – up 18 percent year-over-year. However, export value was 16 percent below last year’s pace at $4.5 million.