U.S. beef gaining traction in Middle East

U.S. beef gaining traction in Middle East
By Tom Johnston on 5/20/2009
U.S. beef is becoming a popular item in the Middle East, which
traditionally has been a strong market for beef livers and other
variety meats, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

In the first quarter of 2009, U.S. beef muscle-cut exports rose 84
percent in volume and more than 40 percent in value over the same
quarter last year.

USMEF Middle East representative Simon Bakht, who is based in
Beirut, Lebanon, said in a weekly report that the increase is partly
attributable to high-quality U.S. beef recently making the leap from
the hotel, restaurant and institutional sector into retail in countries
such as Dubai and Saudi Arabia.

Variety meats are “moving well,” especially in Egypt, Bakht said.
Other countries such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Dubai also are
importers of beef livers, beef kidneys and especially beef hearts for
manufacturing. And for the first time, in 2008, Egypt imported 5,000
metric tons of U.S. beef tripe.

Bakht said U.S. beef is benefitting from excellent access to Middle Eastern markets, which have very few trade barriers.

“We don’t have accessibility problems in any of the Middle Eastern
countries,” he said. “We are working on some issues with the provincial
government in the Kurdistan area (of Iraq), where they have a shelf
life for beef livers of only three months from the date of slaughter,
and that makes it almost prohibitive to get the product in. But as far
as accessibility of the product, we don’t have any problem either for
high-quality beef or for variety meats.”