Korean beef imports surge 20% in 2006

SOUTH KOREA - Beef imports jumped 20 percent in 2006 from the previous year, as high-priced domestic beef drove consumers to opt for more affordable foreign meat.
calendar icon 15 January 2007
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Last year 179,405 tons, or $758.9 million worth of beef imports passed Korea's quarantine inspections, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the National Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service said yesterday. The rise in the import volume represents a 25.8 percent increase from 2006 and in value a 20.2 percent jump from $631.2 million.

The jump in demand for beef imports comes four years after the discovery of mad cow disease in North America in 2003 led Seoul to ban imports of U.S. and Canadian beef in December that year. In 2003, beef imports totaled $1.13 billion, but plunged by more than half to $476 million in 2004.

Local cattle ranchers have been trying to compete with cheaper imports by stressing the quality and safety of homebred beef. But this has also led to higher prices.

By nation, Australia led last year's gains with 137,015 tons ($615 million). New Zealand came a distant second with 39,561 tons ($143.3 million), followed by Mexico with 2,829 tons ($14.5 million).

Since the case of mad cow disease in the United States and Canada in 2003, Australian beef has come to account for more than 75 percent of Korea's beef imports. In 2003, Australian beef accounted for merely 17.4 percent, the government report showed.

Source: The Korea Herald

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