U.S. pork shines in fiercely competitive Korean market

Korea’s appetite for pork is surging, as per capita consumption in 2018 reached 64 pounds — up 35% since 2011.


Source: U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF)

via National Hog Farmer - Jan 09, 2019


Although 2018 export data are only available through October, U.S. pork exports to South Korea have already shattered previous records. Exports reached 191,610 metric tons valued at $538.4 million — up more than 40% year-over-year in both volume and value.


The previous full-year export records (188,307 mt valued at $497 million) were set in 2011 under very different circumstances. At that time, South Korea was battling a rash of foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks, leading to the culling of about one-third of its domestic swine herd and very tight supplies of domestic pork. In 2018, Korea’s pork production edged higher and imports increased from Korea’s other main pork suppliers — the European Union, Canada and Chile. But the U.S. share of Korea’s total pork imports still increased dramatically in 2018 (through November), jumping from 31 to 35%.


Korea’s appetite for pork is surging, as per capita consumption in 2018 reached 64 pounds — up 35% since 2011. Most U.S. pork enters Korea at zero duty under the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and will continue to enjoy duty-free status under the recently revised version of this agreement.


“The Korean market currently has abundant supplies of both domestic and imported pork, but U.S. pork is achieving tremendous growth,” notes Jihae Yang, U.S. Meat Export Federation director in Korea. “Demand is very robust, especially for pork items that offer both quality and convenience for busy consumers, many of whom are in single-person households.”


Most of the U.S. pork exported to Korea consists of frozen muscle cuts destined for further processing. However, U.S. exporters are rapidly expanding the range of items shipped to Korea to include chilled pork, finished processed pork products and pork variety meat. Recent USMEF promotional activities, funded through support from the USDA Market Access Program and the National Pork Board, showcasing these products include: