Taipei, June 29 (CNA) Beef imports from the United States to Taiwan over the past four years have grown faster than those from Australia and New Zealand, according to the latest government statistics.
Since Taiwan partially re-opened its market in 2005 to U.S.
boneless beef from cattle younger than 30 months, imports of U.S.
beef have been rising steadily in terms of volume and unit price, according to statistics compiled by the Animal Industry Department of the Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture (COA).
U.S. beef imports to Taiwan in 2008 totaled 22,572 metric tons, accounting for 30.84 percent of the country's beef imports, the statistics showed.
The volume of U.S. beef imports to Taiwan grew from 7,041 metric tons in 2005, to 18,260 metric tons in 2006, and 19,295 metric tons in 2007.
Meanwhile, beef imports from Australia decreased from 30,254 metric tons in 2005 to 26,741 metric tons in 2008, while imports from New Zealand dropped from 28,092 metric tons to 19,429 metric tons over that period.
Since Taiwan opened its market to foreign beef imports in 1975, the United States, Australia and New Zealand have been its three major import sources. Taiwan suspended beef imports from the United States in 2003 after a case of mad cow disease was reported in that country earlier in the year.
Currently, frozen beef from the United States is quoted at US$8.87 per kilogram, more than double the average price of US$4.3 per kilogram for the same product from other countries.
The controversial issue of whether Taiwan should fully open its market to U.S. beef has been the topic of much debate since Stephen M. Young, departing director of the American Institute in Taiwan's Taipei Office, said last week that it is getting very close to the time when Taiwan would make a full opening to U.S. beef.
Taiwanese importers have repeatedly given assurances on the safety of U.S. beef, but local consumers have expressed concerns and have asked the government to provide clear information on the issue.
Executive Yuan spokesman Su Jun-pin said Saturday that the government has not set a timetable for a full opening to U.S. beef.
Su said that the Executive Yuan will fully respect the professional judgment of the Department of Health (DOH) on the issue, and he brushed aside speculations on the possibility of the government permitting full importation of U.S. beef with effect from the end of June.
(By Flor Wang)