South Korean pork imports continue to grow
South Korea is currently one of the fastest growing pork consumption markets in the world. Despite increasing domestic production (+3% according to USDA estimates), South Korea still imported more pork in 2018, going against previous industry expectations. In 2018, fresh/frozen pork imports to South Korea totalled 571,000 tonnes. This is a 17% increase (+82,000 tonnes) compared to 2017 levels.
Looking at individual suppliers, US exporters have been capitalising on growing demand and the gradual reduction in tariffs on fresh pork trade (frozen shipments have been duty free since 2016). Pork imports from the US totalled 196,000 tonnes in 2018, a 28% increase compared to a year earlier. More product has also likely been diverted to South Korea due to the US-China trade war, which has significantly hampered the competitiveness of US product on the Chinese market.
Nonetheless, the EU-28 as a whole remains the largest trading partner, with 50% market share by volume in 2018. Pork deliveries from the EU were up 11% (+30,000 tonnes) to total 288,000 tonnes for the year. EU-28 shipments are dominated by Spanish and German product, making up over 67% of EU-28 exports to South Korea.
In the long-term, rising consumption will likely mean that South Korea will continue to import a large amount of pork to meet these requirements. However this year, imports may well fall back slightly. Reports indicate that the large volume of imported product in 2018 has contributed to stock building, and these stocks may be drawn on this year. This may be especially true if African Swine Fever (ASF) in China drives up global pork prices.
Increasing domestic production could also reduce import requirements in the region, with production expected to rise by a further 3% this year. However, ASF in nearby China is also a significant threat to domestic production. Korean authorities will be keeping a watchful eye on developments in China, as there is a risk of spread and contamination of the South Korean herd, which would only increase the reliance on imported products.
Tom Forshaw, Analyst
Tom.Forshaw@ahdb.org.uk, 024 7647 8647