September 28, 2015
South Koreans eating more imported beef
Skyrocketing prices of local beef in South Korea have spurred more consumption of lower-priced imported beef, Reuters reported.
It said beef imports are at four-year highs and are expected to further rise this year as local beef prices have increased in the past eight months.
The news agency cited data from the Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp. showing that local beef ribs are priced almost triple those from Australia at 4,912 Korean won (US$4.11) per 100 grammes.
"It's a tough time to sell," cattle farmer Min Jae-ki, was quoted as saying.
Most of the beef produced in South Korea is the so-called Hanwoo, which the locals consider top class, comparable to the prized Wagyu beef of Japan.
According to housewife Park Hee-jung, Hanwoo "is the food we cannot skip on special days like holidays and rituals for ancestors", but that they cannot afford it on a regular basis as "Hanwoo is so expensive".
Raising calves has become more costly as farmers usually include corn and rye grown in their farms in the feed given to their cattle, with some even piping music into the sheds to help stimulate healthy growth.
The cattle herd in South Korea has dropped 14% over two year to 2.66 million as of March, as many small farmers have opted to stay out of business due to slumping prices. Outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease have also contributed to the decimation of the cattle population.
Due to the thinning numbers, the price of Hanwoo beef is expected to further rise. Increasing the herds quickly might be difficult as a calf now fetches a record price of 3.5 million won ($2,931).
Beef imports have risen to 200,000 tonnes in the first eight months, up 4% year on year. The figure is the highest since the January-August period in 2011. Australia was the main source of foreign beef imported into South Korea, selling over 113,000 tonnes of the total eight-month import.