South Korea’s beef/beef variety meat imports in July were down 5 percent from a year ago to 23,084 mt, with larger volumes from Australia (12,575 mt, +3 percent) offset by smaller imports from the U.S. (7,665 mt, -13 percent) and New Zealand (2,562 mt, – 7 percent).
For January through July, total imports were steady (166,627 mt) but imports from the U.S. were down 8 percent to 56,682 mt. First-half import totals for other suppliers included Australia (88,885 mt, +7 percent) New Zealand (19,134 mt, steady), Canada (1,414 mt, +123 percent from last year’s low totals) and new entrants Uruguay (138 mt) and Chile (151 mt). Korean wholesale prices for U.S. short ribs are up 55 percent from a year ago and are one-third higher than Australian short rib prices. Since May, Australia has also benefited from a weaker Australian dollar, as shown in the second chart.
Korea’s domestic cattle prices are still below last year’s low levels, creating a very challenging marketing environment for U.S. beef. Korea’s domestic cattle supply (Hanwoo and beef dairy cattle) has risen steadily over the past decade to more than 3 million head, and the government continues to introduce compensation measures and support programs for producers ostensibly impacted by the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.
Despite the headwinds, weekly U.S. export data indicates an uptick in exports in August, likely reflecting Chuseok holiday buying. On another positive note, Korea’s July imports of chilled U.S. beef were up 69 percent to 615 mt while chilled imports from Australia were down 22 percent to 2,378 mt.
U.S. pork gains market share, but total imports down sharply
Korea’s July pork/pork variety meat imports were down 7 percent to 27,956 mt, with only the EU (12,872 mt, +26 percent) posting a year-over-year gain. Volumes were smaller from other main suppliers, including the U.S. (8,941 mt, -17 percent), Canada (2,949 mt, -41 percent), Chile (2,949 mt, -21 percent) and Mexico (629 mt, -29 percent).
For January through July, imports were down 23 percent to 198,917 mt. While imports from the U.S. were lower than a year ago (77,680 mt, -11 percent), U.S. market share improved from 34 percent to 39 percent as imports from other major suppliers posted even sharper declines, including: EU (72,422 mt, -32 percent), Canada (24,848 mt, -33 percent), Chile (19,552 mt, -12 percent) and Mexico (4,280 mt, -21 percent).