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Hong Kong to accept Canadian UTM beef

The Canadian government has reached an agreement in principle to begin restoring Canadian beef producers’ market access to Hong Kong.

The agreement, which federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced Friday from Hong Kong, “immediately expands key export opportunities for Canadian beef and sets out a clear time table to open that market to all commercially-significant Canadian beef exports,” the government said.

The announcement followed a meeting between Ritz and Hong Kong’s secretary for food and health, Dr. York Chow, the government said.

The agreement calls for Canada to meet Hong Kong’s “high quality and safety standards” so as to complete a “staged process” by the end of 2009.

Ritz, who called the agreement a “breakthrough for Canadian beef exporters,” said he’s confident Canada can meet “and exceed” Hong Kong’s terms by year’s end.

The first stage of the process gives Canadian beef producers access to the Hong Kong market for rib cuts and most bone-in beef products (except for vertebral column cuts) from cattle under thirty months of age (UTMs).

Then, the government said, after Canada meets Hong Kong’s requirements during the first four-month phase-in period, Hong Kong would allow Canadian exports of rib cuts, boneless beef and offal from all Canadian cattle.

If Hong Kong’s remaining requirements are met by the end of 2009, it would then open its borders to all remaining Canadian UTM beef exports, including T-bones and porterhouse steaks.

The Canada Beef Export Federation estimated in Ritz’s press release Friday that the improved access could mean an increase in Canadian beef exports to Hong Kong by as much as $26 million, almost doubling Canada’s current exports.

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