May 11, 2007


South Korean farmers complain of falling prices of beef, pork



About 5,000 farmers in South Korea have staged a rally in Wednesday in the national government offices in Gwacheon and Gyeonggi provinces to protest the ratification of free trade agreement with the United States.


Pork farmers say they are currently struggling with a sense of alienation and a loss of ambition.


Na Gwon-man, 48, a farmer from Naju, South Jolla Province who is considering whether to keep his ranch as many farmers have shut down its ranch operations.  Na said American beef is inexpensive compared to its domestic counterpart.


Fear among pork farmers has been growing since South Korea negotiated a free trade agreement (FTA) with the US and resumed imports of the American beef. Pig ranchers fear pork could meet with the same fate.


Among the rallyists was Lee Byeong-gyu, a pig breeder from Cheongdo, North Gyeongsang Province who said South Korean pork is uncompetitive with cheaper American pork.


Pork imports have increased by 34 percent, to 32,294 tonnes in March this year, compared with 24,025 tonnes in January of last year. Of the March shipments, American pork accounted for nearly 30 percent, or 9,231 tonnes. The price of American pork ranges from 30 percent to 40 percent of domestic pork while American beef, priced at 10,000 won (US$10.82) per kilogramme cheaper than domestic pork, is another threat.


The government's safeguard measures on chilled meat have proven to be futile as imports of the commodity accounted for 4.8 percent of total imports in 2006 while the remaining frozen meat shipments are not included from the safety nets.


Another fear is the significant fall of pork prices. Generally, prices of pork peak in May to June and drops in September. This year, however, the price have started falling in May as average wholesale price of a pig weighing 100 kilogramme is about 221,000 won (US$239.32) as of this May, down 24 percent from a year ago, according to the National Agriculture Cooperative Association.

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