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Imported beef market widens

July 21, 2011 - 19:07 By 김주연
Imported red meat from Australia, the United States and Europe is enjoying a fast-increasing market share in Korea, benefiting from the huge loss of livestock here after the worst-ever foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in the past year.

And competition in the imported beef market is set to become fiercer as Canada will soon resume its beef exports to Korea.

Beef and pork from Australia and the United States have become successful substitutes for local produce for even some health-conscious meat lovers after local prices nearly tripled in recent months.
U.S. beef on sale at a Seoul supermarket (The Korea Herald)

Imports also enjoy a 25 percent tariff exemption, which Seoul imposed on the first 95,000 metric tons of pork for this year, making their pricing even more competitive against local produce in serious short supply.

Also, pork imports saw a particularly steep increase.

Korea imported a total of 21,968 tons of pork in the first half of the year, up 119.9 percent from same period last year, the Agriculture Ministry said. U.S. pork took up the largest portion, 95,380 tons, or 43.4

percent, after increasing 223.4 percent over the year. Import of Canadian pork also increased 191.2 percent in the same period although it only took up 1.43 percent of the total import.

Beef imports were up 29 percent in the same period, totaling 68,000 tons.

“Prices of Hanwoo are slowly going down but just can’t beat import prices. More Korean consumers are beginning to accept U.S. beef as safe and market is definitely growing for Australia, U.S., Canada, and Europe,” said Heo Deok, a director at Korea Rural Economic Institute.

Hanwoo costs about 4,580 won per 100 grams of sirloin at major retailers which is about three times that of U.S. beef.

Australian beef currently has about half of the import market share and the U.S. has a little over 35 percent. Australian meat has been retaining preference edge over U.S. and European products for its clean and safe brand image, a market observer said.

The industry is expected to grow bigger with the resumption of Canadian beef and the Korea-EU FTA that took effect July 1.

On June 28, Korea decided to lift its import ban on Canadian beef after blocking it for about eight years over mad cow disease concerns. It is currently waiting to obtain parliamentary approval. Canada is the world’s third-largest beef shipper and Korea was its No. 4 market in 2002 prior to the ban.

By Cynthia J. Kim (