The United States became the largest supplier of beef to the South Korean market in 2017 after many years of Australia holding that position. The demand for quality beef makes South Korea the fourth-largest beef importer in the international market.
According to the Korea Customs Service, between January and November of 2017, the U.S. shipped over $1.1 billion worth of beef to South Korea, accounting for close to half of all beef imports into the country. That number surpasses the $966.9 million exported to the country for the entire calendar year of 2016. The 177,445 tons of beef shipped to South Korea is the largest figure recorded since the agency started collecting that data in 2000.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects South Korea’s 2018 beef imports to continue to grow by an estimated 1.8 percent. The projection is based on the cost of locally produced beef versus American beef. According to the Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp, locally produced beef ribs are more than twice the price of American ribs.
Australia experienced several years as the main beef supplier to the South Korean market because of an import ban imposed on American beef in 2003. Since the ban was partially listed in 2008, beef produced in the U.S. has been gaining momentum thanks largely to a bilateral trade deal. The 2017 drought in Australia caused a decrease in production, which was coupled with higher tariffs.
For the past 15 years, imports have continued to increase and now account for 60 percent of the beef demand in South Korea. Last year the country imported 379,415 tons of beef, an increase of 3.5 percent from the year before. American and Australian beef combined for more than 90 percent of the overall market.