Korean Beef Imports from US Reach Record in 2017

SOUTH KOREA - Korea’s US beef imports surpassed the $1 billion mark for the first time ever in the first 11 months of 2017, official government data showed Sunday, fueled by rising consumer demand.
calendar icon 15 January 2018
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According to the Korea Customs Service (KCS), beef imports hit an annual record of $1.09 billion in the January-November period. This compared to $966.9 million worth of US beef imported in 2016, and is the highest since 2000 when the country started to keep records of imported beef.

Figures for December are expected today (Monday, 15 January), reports Korea JoongAng Daily.

In term of volume, the customs office said Asia’s fourth-largest economy brought in 166,432 tons of American beef in the first 11 months of 2017, exceeding the 156,078 tons imported for the whole of the previous year.

US beef had maintained No. 1 status after the country fully opened its market to imports in 2001. But sales fell sharply after a mad cow disease outbreak in 2003 that caused Seoul to ban imports altogether. Restrictions were lifted after long negotiations in 2008 when the country opened itself to buying beef from cattle under 30 months old.

Afterwards, with the signing of a bilateral free trade agreement and rising demand for US beef, import volume has steadily picked up and returned to levels prior to the mad cow disease scare.

In particular, imports of cold-stored beef, which fetch high prices compared to frozen meat, increased noticeably despite a more complicated distribution process.

Through November, such beef imports surged 81 per cent on-year to 39,799 tons, worth $358.4 million, an increase of 85.6 per cent compared to the previous year.

A representative for the US Meat Export Federation, who handles public relations for the American beef and pork industries, said there has been a rise in demand among ordinary household, as well as restaurants.

"There is growing number of South Koreans enjoying steak that is fueling growth for US beef," he said.

The official predicted there will be steady growth for cold-stored US beef going forward.

KCS, meanwhile, said Korea’s total beef imports from all countries in the 11 months of last year moved up 3.5 per cent to 358,984 tons. If numbers for December are added, the total easily topped 366,390 tons imported in 2016.

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