SEOUL, Nov. 20 (Korea Bizwire) — U.S. beef has gained a bigger presence in South Korea’s imported beef market this year helped by a bilateral free trade pact, achieving a share of over 50 percent, a trade agency said Monday.
In the January-October period, U.S. beef imports reached US$989 million, accounting for 50.7 percent of the local imported beef market. It regained a share exceeding 50 percent 14 years after the ratio hit a record 75.9 percent, according to data from the Korea International Trade Association (KITA).
In 2003, the country banned the imports of U.S. beef due to the then spreading bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease, in the United States.
Years later, the U.S. demanded South Korea resume importing U.S. beef, citing no more outbreaks of the disease. After rounds of bilateral talks from 2006 to 2008, Seoul allowed boneless meat from cattle aged less than 30 months to be imported starting in late 2008.
As the free trade agreement between South Korea and the U.S. went into effect in March 2012, U.S. beef exports to South Korea have continued to rise on the back of lower tariffs and low prices compared with Korean beef products, a KITA spokesman said.
BSE is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy and fatal neurodegenerative disease in cattle that may be passed to humans who have eaten infected flesh.
Meanwhile, Australian beef accounted for 43.6 percent of the local imported beef market in the 10-month period, down from 47.6 percent for the whole of last year, KITA said.