Australian beef is set to face greater competition in a key export market after the South Korean Parliament formally ratified a request by Canada to re-enter the market.
South Korea is Australia’s third largest market for beef, accounting for 15pc of Australia’s total beef exports from January to November 2011. Only Japan (36pc of Australian beef exports) and the US (17pc) are larger export markets by volume.
The US increased its share of the Korean market last year on the back of an intensified marketing campaign and the newfound price-competitiveness US exports enjoyed compared to Australian-product courtesy of an above-parity $A for much of 2011. A Free Trade Agreement recently signed between the two countries will further assist sales of US beef into the market by gradually reducing tariffs over the next 15 years, a deal Australia would also like to replicate.
Korea imported 20pc more beef in 2011 than the previous year, largely to make up for a protein deficiency created by heavy livestock culling in the wake of a devastating Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in late 2010.
Almost 66pc of the additional volume imported by Korea was taken from the US, with 31pc from Australia and 3pc from New Zealand.
While Australia maintains the largest share of the Korean market, supplying 49pc of the country’s beef imports, the US has increased its share to 38pc in 2011, while Mexico (11pc) and New Zealand (2pc) supply the balance.
That mix is also soon likely to include Canada after its long-running bid to regain re-entry to South Korea received official ratification last week.
Canadian beef was excluded from several export markets including South Korea after BSE was discovered in a cow in Alberta province in May, 2003.
The US also suffered a BSE case in December 2003 and was banned from a exporting to range of markets at the time.
Canada and the US both argued that no scientific basis existed for the bans and lobbied to have them removed.
South Korea lifted its ban on US imports in July 2008, however kept the ban on Canadian imports in place. It remains the last Asian market to still impose a trade ban on Canadian beef.
In response the Canadian Government filed a complaint with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to have the ban overturned. A ruling on the case was expected in July 2011, however both countries agreed to suspend the WTO process as bi-lateral negotiations last year moved closer to a resolution.
Canada saw some long-awaited results last Friday when the South Korean Parliament voted to ratify import health requirements (IHRs) for Canadian beef under 30 months of age.
Canada’s agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said the decision meant Canada was now very close to achieving re-entry.
A Canadian media report said the South Korean Government still has to promulgate the IHRs, then issue a list of approved beef establishments for export and formally accept the import health certificates. It said the Canadian Government expected those steps to occur in early 2012.
Canada Beef has estimated that South Korean market could be worth $30 million to Canadian producers by 2015.
South Korea was Canada's fourth-largest export beef market in 2002 before it was excluded from the market.