South Korea’s pork imports, whose jump to an estimated 580,000 tonnes this year has helped lift Chicago hog futures to all-time highs, will fall by some 16% in 2012, US Department of Agriculture attaches in Seoul said, in their first forecasts for next year.
Domestic farmers have proved quick to re-establish herds following the culling of 3.3m animals, out of 9.9m head, after the foot-and-mouth epidemic was discovered in November last year. The government has estimated the cost of the outbreak at 3 trillion won, or nearly $3bn.
"The industry is steadily rebuilding," the attaches said in a report, noting sow numbers increasing by some 20,000 a month.
A rise of 15% in feed prices, year on year, caused by strong grain markets "has not discouraged farmers from rebuilding their herds, since swine and pork prices are at record levels".
Above historic rates
Even so, South Korea’s pork imports will, at 490,000 tonnes, remain above historic levels, with consumers turning back to the meat thanks to softer prices encouraged by the recovery in the domestic herd.
The country’s pork imports for 2010 were 382,000 tonnes.
For the US, the top pork exporter to South Korea, shipments are expected to fall by some 15% to 170,000 tonnes.
Nonetheless, this would be well-above pre-foot-and-mouth levels of roughly 100,000 tonnes.
South Korea’s beef imports, meanwhile, will continue rebounding, hitting a nine-year high of 410,000 tonnes in 2012, helped by rising consumption of the meat, which is being supported by government-backed promotional campaigns.
Fears for the safety of fish imports from Japan, following the country’s Fukushima nuclear crisis, have also boosted beef demand.
Australia and the US, the top beef exporters to South Korea, are likely from December to face competition from Canadian shipments, with moves afoot in Seoul to lift an eight-year old trade ban.
South Korea’s beef industry was not hit as badly as pork by the foot-and-mouth outbreak, with some 150,000 animals culled, 4.5% of the herd.