By Boyd Champness

SOUTH Korea has rejected 20 tonnes of Australian beef, claming the meat contained unacceptable levels of endosulfan residues – a pesticide used by cotton producers.

The move by South Korea – Australias third-largest beef market – has re-ignited tensions between cotton growers and the beef industry. The shipment was rejected two weeks ago.

Australian federal agriculture minister Mark Vaile has met with cotton and beef industry leaders to find a solution to the pesticide contamination outbreak.

“The Minister is determined to put an end to the problem – he will not allow Australias reputation as an exporter of healthy beef products to be jeopardised,” a spokesman told The Weekly Times.

Industry experts predict Mr Vaile will introduce tougher spraying regulations for cotton growers, greater powers for the Environmental Protection Agency and a review of the conditions under which endosulfan can be used.

The latest discovery follows an endosulfan scare in December, when cattle from 10 properties in New South Wales and Queensland were rejected by export abattoirs and the cotton industry was forced to offer compensation.

Beef industry leaders played down the trade implications of the Korean incident. They pointed out that the affected consignment was a tiny fraction of Australias 120,000-tonne, A$130 million (£51m) trade with that country, and was the first failure out of 492 tests for endosulfan residue.

Frustrated Cotton Australia executive director Gary Punch told the paper that a small group of renegade cotton growers were responsible for the contamination outbreak.