December 8, 2008

Uruguay eyes Korea for grass-fed beef

Uruguay's government is close to sealing a deal in exporting raw beef to South Korea, aiming to fill a void left by a drop in demand and government restrictions for US meat, an industry group said.

Korean health-inspection officials will check its beef processing facilities before purchases of fresh beef are approved, said Luis Alfredo Fratti, president of the government-run Uruguayan Meat Institute. The country already is free to ship processed beef to the Asian nation.

The best markets to export to in the world are Japan and Korea and Fratti is confident in penetrating those markets.

South Korea has restricted most US beef imports since 2003 due to bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Uruguay's grass-fed cattle are free of illnesses and antibiotics, giving producers access to about 100 markets including Europe, Russia and the US, Fratti said.

Some discount stores in Korea resumed sales of US beef last month. Korea's three largest chains -- Shinsegae Co.'s E- Mart, Tesco Plc's Homeplus and Lotte Shopping Co.'s Lotte Mart -- began selling the meat.

Still, only one out of five South Koreans say they will buy US beef, according to a survey of 1,072 people conducted November 14 to November 19 by Maeil Business Newspaper, the nation's largest business daily.


Uruguay is the only South American country allowed to export fresh beef to the US Beef sales account for a fifth of Uruguay's exports and are expected to rise to a record this year because of price increases in Russia and the European Union, Fratti said.

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