South Korea has significantly stepped up its importation of pork and beef products so far this year, including supplies from the United States.
In terms of pork, South Korea imported 219,681 tons during the first half of this year, that’s up 120 percent from 2010’s levels, according to the Animal, Plant and Fisheries Quarantine and Inspection Agency.
Beef imports equaled 187,874 tons in the first six months, which is a 29 percent increase from the same period a year ago.
The country’s foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in 2010 and a re-infection this spring are the drivers behind this buying frenzy. The disease forced the culling of “millions of pigs and thousands of cattle,” quarantine agency officials reported this week.
The lingering questions are whether South Korea's producers will re-stock those animals and return to pre-FMD production levels or whether the country will focus on filling supplies through imported product.
U.S. pork producers are, of course, still awaiting Congress’ final blessing on the South Korean Free-trade Agreement, which is hoped to be accomplished by Washington’s August recess. That action would open wider a significant market to the United States and would make the Asian country one of U.S. pork’s top markets.
So far this year, U.S. pork has accounted for 43.4 percent of South Korea’s total increase in pork imports. It supplied 95,380 tons, a 223 percent increase, compared with U.S. pork shipments in the first half of 2010. Imports from Canada also soared, up 191 percent from 2010, totaling 31,376 tons, reports Chinadaily.com.
As for beef, Australia accounted for 47.7 percent of South Korea’s total beef imports for the first half of the year. That equaled 89,659 tons, up 20.8 percent from 2010. But the United States’ share also grew, up 54.6 percent or 43,990 tons compared with the January-to-June period a year ago.