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Iowa cattle producers return from successful south Korea trade mission trip

By Staff | May 5, 2017

Patrons wait in line for a sample of beef at the Costco Kwangmyung warehouse in South Korea.

Cattle producer Dave Rueber said he was more than willing to hop on board a plane to South Korea, even though the flight takes almost a full day one-way.

Rueber, of Luxemberg, was heading to Asia as part of a delegation touting Iowa beef.

A new board member with the Iowa Beef Industry Council, Rueber said he wanted to see what trade issues might exist in South Korea, while also experiencing an international trade mission trip.

“It was a very impressive trip,” he said. “We accomplished so much in just one week.

“There’s a lot of work that’s already done behind the scenes before we arrive, but we met with folks at the second largest port in South Korea, talked about any potential challenges in trade and how we could help make trade easier.”

The trip included a tour of the cold storage and processing plant at Kyunwoo Foods and Haesung Provision to help the delegates better understand the Korean market.

They also stopped by the Costco Kwangmyung warehouse.

Costco, the largest importer in the region, recently transitioned two of their 13 warehouses from Australian beef to 100 percent U.S. chilled beef. The remaining 11 warehouses will be converted in May.

What impressed Rueber the most was just how much work U.S. Meat Export Federation officials do to open up trade channels overseas.

“The biggest success story during our trip was Costco Foods going from buying 17 to 20 percent of their beef from the U.S. to 100 percent U.S. beef,” he said. “That increased beef sales by 15,000 metric tons, which is huge. That’s a big deal.

“We’re now the second largest customer for beef there,” Rueber added. “South Korea is an excellent trade partner.”

As part-owner of a feedlot in Strawberry Point and an independent cattle farmer, Rueber has seen firsthand the benefits of expanded exports from the U.S.

“My family’s been in the cattle business for 90 years,” he said. “Exports are critical.”

Chris Freland, executive director of the Iowa Beef Industry Council, agreed that the overall goal of the mission trip to South Korea was to help delegates better understand that the international market for beef producers is vital to the success of their operations.

“The goal also is to foster relationships by recognizing that the international market is important,” Freland said. “We have to keep the face of the farmer present and in front. It also allows producers to see how their investment in the checkoff works for their betterment.”

Freland added such trips also oftentimes open the door to additional opportunities.

The trips are orchestrated by the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s international office and help connect producers to import-export buyers.

“South Korea is a top export market for us in the beef industry, so it’s a beneficial trip for us to make,” she said. “Iowa ranks No. 4 for cattle on feed, so we have great, wholesome, nutritious products and need to find an end point for that.”

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