U.S. beef exports climbed by more than $1 billion in 2018, reaching a record $8.33 billion, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). However, South Korea alone accounted for about half of this growth, with exports increasing $526 million to $1.75 billion - a 43% rise from 2017.
“Korea is now the second-largest international destination for U.S. beef in both volume and value, trailing only Japan, and the United States accounts for 58% of Korea's chilled beef imports,” USMEF relayed.
USMEF Korea director Jihae Yang recently provided more details on U.S. beef's soaring popularity in Korea, noting that Korean consumers crave high-quality, well-marbled beef at a reasonable price.
“That desire is the major demand factor,” she added.
Another key factor driving demand is that U.S. beef is now available to a wider range of consumers because of ample supplies and lower import duties under the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS), USMEF noted. Since KORUS took effect in 2012, the duty rate on U.S. beef cuts has dropped from 40% to 18.7% and will decline to zero by 2026.
Yang said that U.S. beef has achieved tremendous growth in Korea's retail sector, including COSTCO-Korea's conversion of its chilled beef offerings from Australian to U.S. beef. But consumer preferences and shopping habits are ever-changing, so USMEF is working to increase the presence of U.S. beef in less traditional retail outlets such as convenience stores and e-commerce platforms.