WTSA offer concession to beef, poultry exporters to Asia
As U.S. exporters continue to face the impact of import bans on American beef and poultry by Asian governments, the Westbound Transpacific Stabilization Agreement said Wednesday it would extend existing shipping contracts and rates with shippers of refrigerated beef, pork and poultry by five months, until Nov. 30.
“It is hoped that by then Asian governments will have lifted separate bans against U.S. beef and poultry as precautions against bovine spongiform encephalopathy — mad cow disease — and avian influenza,” the carrier group said.
Most U.S. meat exports to Asia move under 12-month service contracts that run from July 1 through June 30 of the following year. Under the approach recommended by the transpacific carrier group, current contracts would expire Nov. 30 and new contracts would run from Dec. 1 through no later than June 30, 2005, returning to the traditional, seasonal contract cycle.
But the Westbound Transpacific Stabilization Agreement also warned that it would raise rates for contracts post-Dec. 1 by $600 per 40-foot container and $480 per 20-foot container, to cover higher costs.
It cited higher “vessel charter, equipment, rail, trucking and other operating costs during the past year, plus specific costs associated with bringing specialized refrigerated containers and related services back into the transpacific market to meet an expected surge in demand as the bans are lifted.”
Some 93,500 40-foot containers of refrigerated U.S. beef, pork and poultry were shipped to Asia in 2003, up from 88,300 in 2002, the carrier group reported. The bans on beef were imposed in December 2003; the poultry bans followed in January, although Hong Kong has recently lifted its ban on U.S. poultry exports.
According to the carrier group, total refrigerated meat shipments to Asia could fall about 25 percent this year if the bans continue throughout the year.