After a significant setback in Taiwan in late 2011 and much of 2012, U.S. beef exports are rebounding in a big way. Through May, exports to this island nation were 120 percent higher than a year ago in volume (13,561 metric tons) and 174 percent in value ($106 million).
More importantly, this is an even stronger pace than U.S. exports established in this market before controversy over Taiwan’s beta agonist policy created a difficult business climate.
Beef exports to Taiwan declined 45 percent in volume (19,449 metric tons) and 36 percent in value ($128.4 million) last year, largely due to a highly publicized enforcement of Taiwan’s then-zero tolerance policy for beta agonist residues. The issue created a very uncertain environment for loyal customers of U.S. beef, including importers, retailers and restaurants. Taiwan’s legislature later approved a proposal allowing establishment of a maximum residue level (MRL) for beta agonists in both domestic and imported beef. When this policy change was implemented in September 2012, the regulatory environment stabilized and the negative publicity surrounding U.S. beef was greatly reduced.
While most customers within Taiwan’s meat trade never lost faith in U.S. beef, the industry still faced a challenge in restoring consumer confidence. In recent months, USMEF-Taiwan has reached out to consumers to restore the positive image of U.S. beef at many public events and weekend festivals. The U.S. beef mascot has been a popular attraction at these events, with many children and families interacting with the mascot and posing for photos. Marketing activities at these events are supported by the Beef Checkoff Program and the USDA Market Access Program (MAP).
“It’s really remarkable to see the progress we have made with consumers over the past six months,” said Davis Wu, USMEF-Taiwan director. “As recently as last summer, U.S. beef was the subject of street protests and a very high level of misinformation on social media. We are rapidly putting this controversy behind us, as reflected in this year’s export results.”
NOTE: One metric ton = 2,204.622 pounds. Export statistics include both beef muscle cuts and variety meat, but more than 99 percent of U.S. exports to Taiwan are muscle cuts.