Busy start to 2016 for Korean beef importers

22 March 2016

Beef imports in Korea during the first two months of 2016 were significantly higher than the same period last year, jumping 43%, to more than 66,000 tonnes swt (KITA). Imports were higher from all three major trade partners, Australia, the US and New Zealand. January beef import volumes were particularly high, with some importers reportedly waiting for 2016 to begin before clearing product through customs – allowing them to take advantage of the lower tariff in the new year.

Australia remains the largest source of imported beef in Korea so far in 2016, with almost 34,000 tonnes swt in the first two months (51% of total imports), while US beef jumped 58%, to almost 27,000 tonnes swt (40%). For chilled beef, Australia supplied 63% of the total through the first two months, with the majority of the remainder (36%) coming from the US.

All of the main beef cuts exported from Australia to Korea, with the exception of short ribs, increased in volume for the period. Chuck roll (up 36%), manufacturing beef (up 54%), and brisket (up 51%) were all significantly higher, and blade rose 6%, while short ribs, in the face of very strong competition from US exporters, were 41% lower (Department of Agriculture and Water Resources).

Despite the larger volumes of imported beef in the market so far in 2016, wholesale prices have been very resilient, with most categories dearer than the end of 2016, and only a couple falling. This was assisted by a generally dearer beef market, caused by relatively low supplies of Hanwoo and other domestic beef.

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