On Thursday, major South Korean discount retailers E-Mart, Home Plus and Lotte Mart will resume selling U.S. beef. The retailers, in a joint release, cited the slow economy and daily financial difficulties facing Koreans as part of the reason behind their decision.
U.S. Meat Export Federation president and CEO Philip Seng says this is a big breakthrough for regaining Korean market share for the U.S. beef industry.
"What we have right now in Korea is a lot of product that has landed; we probably have 40,000 metric tons that are landed," Seng says. "Some of this is going into the market at a very, very small rate, but we see this as a big catalyst to breaking this logjam open and having a lot more product flowing into the market."
Seng says USMEF had had success this year in promoting U.S. beef in butcher shops and small restaurant chains that showed great loyalty and enthusiasm for U.S. beef. But in order to grow the volume significantly, USMEF needed the large retail chains to participate as well. He says this will not only grow sales at the retail level, but will also help U.S. beef performance in other sectors of the market.
South Korea was the third-largest buyer of U.S. beef in 2003 before the ban was put in place. Despite Korea’s slow economy and other current economic challenges, Seng sees improvement in the market's acceptance of U.S. beef and thinks the U.S. will have a very positive year in terms of beef exports to Korea in 2009.