May 9, 2018


US, EU vie for dominance in South Korea pork market



The US is closing in on the EU for supremacy in the South Korean pork market, as the former shipped 50,400 tonnes of pig meat in the first quarter, an increase of over 30% over year-earlier levels.


While the EU pork imports in the first three months still account for over half of South Korea's total pork import volumes, at 75,500 tonnes, they increased by only 8% (+5,500 tonnes) year-on-year and their market share dropped by four percentage points, AHDB Pork reported.


The popularity of pork continues to increase in South Korea, which imported 147,000 tonnes of fresh/frozen pork in the first quarter, 15% more than last year.


The value of the South Korean pork import market also increased 5% year-on-year in the first quarter to 483 billion SK won (US$448.77 million). However, while the value of US shipments was 30% higher, that of EU shipments decreased 5% due to a 12% decline in the average price of EU imports.


The pork division of the UK levy body Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board cited the latest USDA forecasts anticipating that domestic consumption could increase around 2% (+33,000 tonnes carcass weight equivalent) this year.


Rise in domestic production


However, domestic production is also expected to rise 3% (+38,000 tonnes cwe), reflecting expansion in the pig herd recorded in 2017. "As such, demand for imported pork may start to falter as the year progresses, especially as Korean consumers generally prefer domestic pork over imported pork", AHDB Pork noted.


It said the EU may particularly struggle to maintain market share into the South Korean market this year, blaming several factors including:


  -- reputational damage suffered in 2017 due to hepatitis E in imported pork from Germany and the Netherlands;


  -- weaker US dollar; and


  -- the US-Korea FTA, which enables US pork to be imported tariff-free.


"With EU production set to expand this year, weaker prospects on this export market later in 2018 may put downwards pressure on the EU market, unless demand from other destinations can expand to compensate", AHDB Pork said.
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