South Korea import demand falls, but likely to return
South Korea imported 525,000 tonnes of fresh and frozen pork in 2019, 8% less than the previous year, according to data from Korea Customs. Pork imports were particularly high in 2018, possibly in a conscious effort to build stocks against African Swine Fever (ASF). Since then, competition for pork has increased, particularly from China. Consumption growth has also slowed, due to (unfounded) consumer concerns about ASF.
In the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2019, imports were down by 10% and 19% year-on-year respectively, accounting for almost all the annual drop. Although relatively stable in the early part of the year, import prices had started to rise in May, and by December, they were 12% higher than a year before.
All bar one of the top ten supplying countries reduced volumes in the last quarter of the year. The three biggest suppliers are the United States (-17%), Germany (-18%) and Spain (-29%). Each of these countries is also an important supplier to China. Canada, the fourth largest supplier, increased trade with the country (+33%), probably as exports to China were prohibited for much of the period.
South Korea is approximately 66% self-sufficient in pork production. Production had been growing in recent years along with consumption. However, the discovery of African Swine Fever in September 2019 is likely to cut production and stem consumption growth. Between September and November, 380,000 pigs, approximately 3% of the herd, had been slaughtered to control the spread of the disease.
Although management of the disease is thought to have been effective, Gira foodservice expect production to fall by 4% this year. There appears to be a knock-on effect to demand as well; retail prices for pork were falling toward the end of 2019. Despite this, Gira is forecasting import demand to increase in 2020.