Hong Kong has relaxed its import protocol for U.S. beef products for the first time since 2005, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
On Tuesday (June 17) Vilsack announced Hong Kong has agreed to accept all U.S. beef products from animals of any age since restrictions were put in place in December 2003, following the detection of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) positive animal in the U.S. (one of only four cases found in the U.S.)
Since 2005, only deboned beef from all cattle and certain bone-in beef from cattle less than 30 months of age could be shipped from the U.S. to Hong Kong. Earlier this year, Mexico, Uruguay, Ecuador and Sri Lanka also lifted their longstanding restrictions to provide full access for U.S. beef and beef products.
"This is great news for American ranchers and beef companies," said Vilsack. "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," Vilsack said.
In the first four months of 2014, U.S. beef and beef product exports to Hong Kong topped $307 million.
He added that the World Organization for Animal Health granted the United States negligible risk status for BSE last year.
“We welcome this move by Hong Kong and will continue our efforts to break down barriers and expand access for high-quality, safe and wholesome U.S. food and agricultural products in Hong Kong and around the world," Vilsack said.
While Hong Kong is officially part of China, it serves as its own customs and quarantine administration zone and so maintains its own rules and regulations.
This news comes at a good time for Tyson Foods, one of the largest beef processors in the U.S. Shares of Tyson Foods rose 32 cents to close Tuesday at $35.47 on the news.
This upward tick comes after a two-week downward spiral as Tyson shares have lost 18% of their value and suffered two downgrades from Wall Street brokers who believe Tyson’s $8.6 billion bid for Hillshire Brands was overpriced at a 70% premium for Hillshire stakeholders.