Korean imports of pig meat recovering

Monday, 31 January 2022

Although the market has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels, it seems that imports of pig meat by South Korea turned a corner in Q3. In the first half of 2021, imports of pig meat and offal were 6% lower than last year, totalling 224,000 tonnes. This was the lowest Jan-Jun import volume since 2014. In Q4, volumes had recovered to 122,000 tonnes, 25% higher year-on-year. By the end of 2021, full-year imports stood at 465,000 tonnes, 3% more than in 2020.

Chart showing pig meat imports to South Korea

The three most notable trends since the beginning of 2020 have been the loss of market access for German exporters, as South Korea banned product in the light of Germany’s African Swine Fever outbreak. The subsequent increase in exports from other EU nations, as prices fell across the bloc, increasing competitiveness. Thirdly, the slight loss of US exporters’ market share, particularly to Spain. Spain has had to refocus dramatically as Chinese import demand has cooled, and some of that refocus has been towards other Asian markets.

UK exporters have also been increasing shipments to South Korea, from a modest 1,000 tonnes in 2020, to more than four times that in 2021. This is still only around 1% of total imports.

The USDA is forecasting a recovery in demand from South Korea in 2022, although at the moment the country is in the throes of the omicron coronavirus wave, with strict social distancing measures in place. Domestic pork production is expected to be stable or fall this year, which means import demand is expected to rise.

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