Exports of beef from both the US and Australia to South Korea rose sharply in the first two months of 2011, as Asia’s fourth-largest economy dealt with the fallout of last year’s devastating foot and mouth disease outbreak.
The FMD outbreak in November last year, the most significant FMD event in the country’s history, forced South Korea to cull more than three million head of livestock.
Data contained in a recent US Meat Export Federation report showed that US beef exports to Korea totalled 20,340 tonnes in the first two months of this year, compared to 11,209 tonnes in the corresponding period last year.
In total Korea imported 101,816 tonnes of US beef in 2010, a 94 percent rise on 2009 levels.
In the same period Australian beef and veal exports to Korea rose 8 percent year on year to total 124,161 tonnes.
Meat and Livestock Australia said the initial forecast for 2010 was for Australian beef exports to Korea to decline in the face of increased competition from the US.
However, stronger than expected Korean beef demand, underpinned by an expanding economy, had fuelled a rise in both US and Australian beef imports.
Like the US, Australian beef exports to Korea also accelerated in January, rising 30pc on January 2010 levels.
MLA’s Jim Lim told ABC radio that the increased January shipments were not necessarily related to Korea’s FMD outbreak and were more likely to have been caused by higher demand for beef in the lead-up to Chinese New Year celebrations, which occurred in early February.
American beef lost ground in Korea in 2008 over BSE-related concerns.
Korea’s JoongAng Daily news service reported that the increased import volumes indicated that US beef was regaining popularity in the market.
The JoonAng Daily reported that Foot and Mouth Disease has caused more than 2 trillion won ($1.79 billion) in damage since the first outbreak was reported in November.