January 31, 2011


South Korean imports of beef and pork spike in January



South Korea's imports of beef and pork jumped this month amid a massive slaughter of cattle and pigs here caused by the spreading foot-and-mouth disease, the customs office said on Friday (Jan 28).


South Korea imported 24,513 tonnes of beef during the first 21 days of this month, up 22.7% from the same period a month earlier, according to the Korea Customs Service. Pork imports also jumped 31.1% to 26,625 tonnes.


Imported meat prices also surged. Prices of per-kilogramme beef and pork jumped 25.1% and 16.7% this month, respectively, compared with the same period a year earlier, the office said.


Increasing meat imports were intended to ease supply shortages caused by the massive slaughter of pigs and cattle affected by FMD, which affects mostly cloven-hoofed animals.


South Korea has culled around 2.6 million livestock since the highly contagious disease hit a town in the southeastern area of the nation in late November. The disease has spread almost across the entire nation now despite the government's stepped-up quarantine efforts.


Prices of pork and other meat soared in the domestic market, making it more expensive for people to prepare meals for family gatherings during the Lunar New Year holiday early next month.


As part of stabilizing meat prices, the finance ministry said on Tuesday (Jan 25) that it will cut import tariffs on 60,000 tonnes of pork from the current 25% to zero until the end of June. Pork is cheaper than beef and popular especially among working-class people.


The move is in line with ongoing pan-government's anti-inflation efforts and is also aimed at easing price hikes amid worries that demand for the meat is expected to spike ahead and during the upcoming holiday.


In an earlier meeting to discuss anti-inflation measures, Vice Finance Minister Yim Jong-yong said that the government will take every possible measure to stabilise soaring pork prices as part of efforts to ease the suffering of working-class people.

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