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Saudi Arabia reopens to Canadian boneless beef

Saudi Arabia has agreed to resume imports of Canadian boneless beef from young cattle as part of an agreement to discuss broader access to the country’s “lucrative” beef market, federal officials said Tuesday.

Canada’s Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced the agreement Tuesday in Riyadh after meeting with Abdullah Bin Ahmed Zeinal Alireza, the Saudi minister of commerce and industry.

The agreement grants immediate access for boneless beef from animals under 30 months of age (UTMs).

Saudi Arabia was Canada’s sixth largest beef export market before it closed its ports to Canadian beef in 2003, after the appearance of Canada’s first domestic case of BSE in an Alberta cow.

Canada and Saudi Arabia agreed to continue “extensive negotiations with the goal of fully reopening access for Canadian beef exports,” Ritz reported in Tuesday’s release.

The release also quoted the Canada Beef Export Federation as estimating full market access to Saudi Arabia would allow Canadian beef exporters to re-establish previous export levels, worth nearly $6 million.

Ritz and his Saudi counterpart, Agriculture Minister H.E. Dr. Fahd Bin Abdulrahman Balghunaim, have “directed officials to resolve market access issues,” the federal release added.

The agreement with Saudi Arabia follows a similar deal Feb. 3 with the government of Jordan, which until recently had also closed its gates to Canadian beef.

Ritz’s travels in the Middle East include a trip next week to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Gulfood 2009 trade show in Dubai. Gulfood is the largest food industry exhibition in the Middle East, where Canadian exporters connect with Middle East buyers, the government said.

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