(KMAland) -- The U.S. Meat Export Federation says U.S. exporters have seen a significant development for U.S. beef access in Saudi Arabia.
USMEF senior director of export services and access Travis Arp says the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) recently approved a regulation increasing the shelf life for chilled beef sold in Saudi Arabia by 50 days, with the new standard being 120 days from the date of slaughter. He says the former 70-day shelf-life limit had been a source of frustration for several years.
"Saudi Arabia originally had a limit of chilled beef shelf-life of 70 days," he said. "That really limited US exporters' ability to ocean-freight chilled beef to Saudi Arabia. By the time it made the entry, there were a limited number of days available to market that beef. Chilled beef was being air-freighted into Saudi Arabia at substantially higher prices. Saudi Arabia expanded their chilled beef shelf-life standard to 120 days, so now it make's ocean-freighting much more commercially viable."
Arp notes that USMEF continues to work with U.S. trade officials on other market access obstacles in Saudi Arabia, where U.S. beef exports had achieved steady growth until trade was suspended in 2012 following a BSE case in California.
"Saudi Arabia was a steadily growing and lucrative market for U.S. beef," Arp said. "But Saudi shut the market after a BSE case in 2012. We really weren't able to get back into the market until 2016 under some very strict requirements. That created another level of verification on cattle at the feedlot level. It added extra time and cost. Because of that, we have not been able to gain the same level of beef exports that we saw prior to 2012."
In 2011, U.S. beef exports to Saudi Arabia topped 6,600 metric tons valued at nearly $32 million, while last year exports were just 1,127 metric tons valued at under $10 million. In 2019, even before COVID-19 restrictions impacted Saudi Arabia’s restaurant sector, exports had only recovered to 1,539 metric tons valued at $14.3 million.