South Korea is one of the top growth markets for U.S. pork in 2014, with exports through September increasing 37% in volume and 56% in value from the same period last year.
In a presentation to pork producers and exporters attending the recent U.S. Meat Export Federation Strategic Planning Conference in Arlington, Va., USMEF-Korea Director Jihae Yang explained some of the factors behind the sharp increase in Korea's demand for imported pork, including voluntary domestic herd reduction measures implemented by the Korean government, as well as the impact of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus in Korea.
Yang says because of the voluntary reduction and PEDV, pork production this year will be down by 3%.
The Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement has lowered import duties for U.S. pork, with some products already entering Korea duty-free and all frozen pork eligible for duty-free treatment by 2016.
Yang explained that these tariff reductions came at a critical time, because the Korean market has become even more intensely competitive due to an influx of pork from the European Union.
After losing access to Russia – its largest export market – earlier this year, the European pork industry is competing much more aggressively in Asian markets.
"After the Russian ban on EU pork, many of the EU pork entered into Korea," Yang said.
Yang says that in past years most European suppliers exported only pork bellies to Korea, but they are now competing head-to-head with the U.S. industry on items such as pork collar butts and picnics, which are used as raw material for further processing in Korea.