Audio: Mexico Offers Favorable Market Access for U.S. Beef, but Full Reopening Remains Elusive

Click to play audio file Mexico was the first foreign market to reopen to U.S. beef following the discovery of BSE in 2003, and since that time Mexico has perennially been the largest volume market for U.S. beef exports. But some BSE-related restrictions on imports of U.S. beef, including a 30-month cattle age limit, still remain in place for Mexico. Speaking recently to a group of U.S. beef producers and exporters, USMEF Regional Director Chad Russell said a full reopening of this market is a top priority for U.S. trade officials, and some progress is being made. For example, beef feet and sweetbreads were recently removed from the list of U.S. beef items prohibited by Mexico (prohibited items still include small intestines, ground beef, head meat and weasand meat). The cattle age limit, however, remains a difficult obstacle to overcome.

Despite these age and product restrictions, U.S. beef exports to Mexico performed very well in 2011. With one month of results still to be posted, beef exports to Mexico (including variety meat) reached nearly 518 million pounds valued at $902.8 million. This is a 5 percent increase in volume and an impressive 23 percent increase in value over the first 11 months 2010.


Joe Schuele: This is Joe Schuele with U.S. Meat Export Federation report. Mexico was the first foreign market to reopen the U.S. beef following of discovery of BSE, and U.S. beef generally enjoys strong market access in Mexico. But as USMEF Regional Director Chad Russell recently explained to a group of beef producers and exporters, more progress still needs to be made in fully reopening this market.

Chad Russell: In the case of Mexico you do have pretty good access but there are still some prohibitions and place related to BSE. For example, all the beef has to come from cattle 30 months or younger, so that prohibition is still in place. There are still products that are prohibited like ground beef. I do have a little bit good news of Mexican government has agreed to allow legal importation of beef feet and sweetbreads, those two products that had been prohibited because of the BSE situation.

Joe Schuele: Russell said the 30 month cattle age limit remains a difficult obstacle to overcome, but this issue is a top priority for U.S. trade officials.

Chad Russell: The risk assessment that was done by the Mexican government’s Ministry of Health, the conclusions that came out of this risk assessment was that Mexico has already moved further that it should have, according to them, but they provided no scientific justification for those results. The good news is that USDA has one of the top priorities in the bilateral agricultural relationship with Mexico. So there is a framework in place and USDA continuous to engage on these topics. There has been, as I said a minute ago, a little bit of forward progress and good news there. So we will have to wait and see.

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