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Pork imports surge on reduced tariffs

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Published : 2011-11-24 16:12
Updated : 2011-11-24 20:13

Pork imports have more than doubled this year to almost one-third of the market, the largest-ever portion, a government report said Thursday.

The nation imported 151.89 million metric tons of pork this year, up 117 percent from the amount imported until last November, the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said.

Competition in the pork market is set to become fiercer as more pork imports are set to enjoy tax and tariff exemptions with the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement ratified Tuesday.

“The Korean pork market is increasingly challenged by the inflow of cheaper produce from the U.S., Australia and Europe. Pork exporters abroad will continue to benefit with their competitive pricing,” an official at the Korea Swine Association said.

U.S. pork made up 39.4 percent of imports, tripling its share last year. Imports of Canadian pork doubled in the same period, to 43,942 tons. Pork imports from Germany increased by fivefold to 20,564 tons.

Korea imported a total of 21,968 tons of pork in the first half of the year, up 119.9 percent from same period last year, the Agriculture Ministry said.

The ministry attributed the rise partly to the temporary removal of tariffs imposed to curb inflation. The Finance Ministry in June removed all tariffs on 130,000 tons of fresh and frozen pork to tame domestic prices. It later withdrew the tariffs on all fresh pork imports until September, making imports more price competitive.

“Most industry analysts and relevant institutions have a pessimistic view on the local industry and its price competitiveness. Policymakers need to come up with ideas to help livestock farmers create a new market,” the Korea Swine Association official said.

The price of 110 kilograms of pork was 342,000 won at major retailers as of the third week of October, down 17.2 percent from a month earlier and more than 40 percent lower than June, the Korea Rural Economy Institute said.

Competition in the imported beef market is also set to become fiercer as Canada will soon resume its beef exports to Korea. The industry is expected to grow bigger with the resumption of Canadian beef and the Korea-EU FTA that took effect July 1.

Australian beef currently has about half of the import market share and the U.S. has a little over 35 percent. Australian meat has been retaining the preference edge over U.S. and European products because of its clean and safe image, a market observer said.

By Cynthia J. Kim (cynthiak@heraldcorp.com)