US AMBASSADOR Glyn Davies celebrated the resumption of US bone-in beef in the Thai market at the “US Bone-in Beef is Back” reception held at his residence on Thursday’s evening, but he conceded it is challenging to open the Thai market for more US farm products as the two sides have yet not agreed to allow imported pork from the US.
Davies opened the reception by slicing one of the first US Tomahawk steaks sold in Thailand in almost 15 years. “US beef is known world-wide for its excellent quality and flavour. I am glad to have an opportunity to share these excellent beef cuts with my Thai friends and colleagues” announced Ambassador Davies.
He also showed how to grill a ribeye and said he likes a “medium” gradation of “doneness”.
Organised by the Office of Agricultural Affairs of the US Department of Agriculture, the US Embassy in Bangkok with support from the US Meat Export Federation, the “US Bone-in Beef is Back” reception reintroduced US bone-in beef products to the Thai market. At the reception, over 200 executive chefs, food and beverage managers, restaurants, steakhouses, retailers, caterers, importers, and media representatives tasted US bone-in beef menu items such as US tomahawk, ribeye, and slow-cooked braised short ribs.
Thailand lifted a longtime ban on the import of US meat in April this year. Concerned about “mad-cow” disease, Thailand had banned import of US beef for 14 years.
Although the ban lifted in April, it took some time before suppliers and importers could distribute US beef to consumers via supermarkets and restaurants, said Russ Nicely, US Embassy’s agricultural counsellor. He said prior to the ban, Thai imports of US beef was worth about $3 million (Bt98.5 million) annually and he hoped it would jump to $10 million in the near future.
He conceded that the Thai market will be tough for the US. Meat imported from Australia and New Zealand have an advantage due to lower tariff rates under the free trade agreement between Thailand and the two countries, while US meat faces a higher tariff rate.
“US meat is not a cheap product but it is the best value for money,” he said and explained that the quality of US corn-fed beef is different from grass-fed beef imported from Australia and New Zealand. Corn has move nutrition than grass, resulting in a higher quality meat, he assured.
Asked about the negotiating on liberating the Thai pork market, Nicely said that he and Davies have good conversation with their Thai counterparts, the two sides have different opinions on some things, and that they are working to resolve differences in order to move trade forward.
Davies said that it is not easy to conduct trade negotiations, as noted it took about 14 years before the US could resume beef exports to Thailand.
Sabrina Yin, Asean Director of the US Meat Export Federation, said that among the bloc, the Philippines, Vietnam and Singapore are major importers of US beef. The challenge to expand the beef market in Thailand is a high tariff rate at 50 per cent, compared with 7 per cent in Singapore, 10 per cent in the Philippines and 17-20 per cent in Vietnam. She also expected Indonesia has sales potential and its tariff rate is only 3 per cent.
Gopal Jagota, director of Jagota Brothers Trading, a food import company, said that Thai consumers are increasingly consuming beef, and added that Australian beef dominates among imported beef in the Thai market.
Dana Edward Caron, managing director and chef at Roadhouse Barbecue, said local beef eaters at his restaurant account for about 60 per cent of his customers.