U.S. Meat Reclaims Lead in Imported Beef Market

  • By Chae Sung-jin

    March 06, 2018 12:56

    U.S. beef regained the top spot in Korea's imported beef market 14 years after being overtaken by Australian beef amid a mad cow disease scare.

    American beef dominated the import market in Korea once it opened to foreign produce in 2001, but imports plunged amid the mad cow scare in 2003. But lowered tariffs under the bilateral free trade agreement gradually restored its dominance.

    According to the Korea Rural Economic Institute on Monday, imports of U.S. beef rose 13.7 percent last year to 177,445 tons from the year before. Over the same period, imports of Australian beef fell four percent to 172,564 tons.

    In 2002, Korea imported 224,029 tons of American beef, leading to a 70-percent market share.

    Imports were banned completely for several years after the mad cow scare, and the government's decision in 2008 to resume them for beef from cows younger than 30 months reignited the fears and kept the imports below 100,000 tons annually until 2010.

    But then the FTA went into effect in 2012 and prices dropped, while consumers relaxed. There has also been rising demand for steak from restaurants.

    Meanwhile supplies of Australian beef fell due to droughts there over the past few years, while prices rose as Australia broadened its export markets. 

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