SEOUL, Jan. 22 (Korea Bizwire) — The beer trade deficit surpassed $100 million for the first time in South Korean history last year, as consumers are increasingly electing to imbibe foreign brews.
Trade data collected by the Korea Customs Service showed last year’s beer imports stood at $263 million, 44.9 percent higher than in 2016.
South Korean beers heading abroad, in comparison, amounted to less than half that figure, for a total of $112 million.
With exports of domestic beer failing to match the surging growth of imports, the trade deficit from 2016 to 2017 exploded by 66.1 percent to reach $156.5 million.
The trade deficit has ballooned in the last five years, following the first yearly deficit in 2012 which came in at $5.77 million.
In another first, last July beer overtook wine and spirits to become the best-selling category of imported alcohol.
The Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp. has previously stated that there has been a shift in South Koreans’ beer drinking habits towards enjoying alcohol in the comfort of their own home as opposed to dining out.
Both the quantity and quality of imported beers are on the rise, as there is 2.5 times more variety of options that in 2016.
As foreign beers have gained ground, domestic beers have been forced to make concessions on their home turf. Previously published research by the Rural Development Administration found that the major domestic labels (Cass, Hite, Cloud, Max, OB) saw their share of beer sales drop from 80 percent in 2012 to below 60 percent in only five years.
Over the same time period, imported competitors have steadily gobbled up domestic market share.
With the government removing tariffs imposed on U.S. beers starting this month and from European products in July, the fight for South Korea’s beer market is expected to become even more competitive.
Lina Jang (firstname.lastname@example.org)