Thu, Jan 26, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Stores plan their orders, but consumer group unhappy over beef import deal

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Retailers were surprised yesterday by the government's announcement that it would conditionally allow US beef imports -- a decision that was mocked by a consumer- rights group as a Lunar New Year present for Uncle Sam.

Hypermarket operators said they would soon place orders with exporters to negotiate quantities and prices. The first batch of US beef is expected to arrive in Taiwan by air in over 10 days, they said.

Carrefour Taiwan, the nation's largest hypermarket operator, said it would import 40 tonnes of beef in the first batch by air, with a second order being shipped by boat, which might take around a month, said Dream Lin (林夢紹), Carrefour's public relations manager .

Once US beef hits the market again early next month, prices of Australian and New Zealand meat should drop by around 20 percent, Far Eastern Geant said in a statement issued yesterday.

"As long as there is a market for US beef, we'll import the products" in compliance with government regulations, said Ahmen Lee (李伯孟), regional marketing manager at Costco President Taiwan.

However, the non-profit Consumers' Foundation was less than happy about the news, slamming the government's decision as an under-the-table deal.

"As Cabinet members have been busy handing over their portfolios these days, we don't believe that this is a decision made by the Cabinet after thorough evaluations," said Terry Huang (黃怡騰), the foundation's secretary general.

Political pressure must be suspected, given that the US remains a mad-cow-infected area, he said.

Huang called on the Department of Health to make public its risk assessment standards and state clearly why its officials considered it imperative to lift the ban on US beef when there is an adequate amount of Taiwanese, Australian and New Zealand meat available on the market.

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