Meat Prices Fall on U.S. Beef Prospects

SOUTH KOREA - The prices of beef, pork and chicken are all falling in the aftermath of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement. U.S. beef imports are still minimal but just the expectation of a full fledged import onslaught is weighing heavily on domestic meat prices. It's good news for consumers but bad for Korean farmers.
calendar icon 10 July 2007
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The National Statistical Office says prices of pork and both domestic and imported beef fell together for the first time in eight years in the April-to-June quarter. Domestic beef prices slipped 2.0 percent and foreign beef 3.7 percent year-on-year, while pork dropped 6.9 percent.

Domestic beef prices posted their biggest quarterly drop since the second quarter of 2005 when they fell 2.2 percent. For pork, it was the biggest price plunge since the second quarter of 1996 when prices tumbled 9.5 percent. Beef and pork prices last fell at the same time in the first quarter of 1999, ahead of a full beef market opening in 2001 as agreed to at the Uruguay Round of Word Trade Organization talks.

The Korea Agro-Fisheries Trade Corporation surveyed retail prices at large distributors across the country and found that the price of top-grade Korean sirloin (hanwoo) rose from W33,838 (US$1=W938) for 500 grams in June last year to W36,626 late last year. However, prices began to fall this year to as low as W32,029.

Meanwhile the price of medium-grade fresh bacon (samgyeopsal) also fell from W8,344 per 500 g in June last year to W7,622 this month, and chicken prices which peaked at W4,061 per 500g in August last year fell to W3,626. That's because chicken supply has increased as meat firms anticipate that pork and chicken eaters will shift to imported U.S. beef once it hits the Korean market.

Bilateral talks on U.S. beef import safety standards are due to wrap up this fall around Chuseok, or Korean thanksgiving, and they are expected to also allow the resumption of imports of U.S. bone-in beef. That will likely push down meat prices even further.

Source: The Chosun Ilbo
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