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AHDB Pork Country Reports

16 January 2013

BPEX / AHDB Country Reports - South Korea January 2013BPEX / AHDB Country Reports - South Korea January 2013

In common with many other countries in the Far East, pork plays a major part in the diet of Koreans. With domestic production only able to cover about two-thirds of demand, South Korea has recently been a major importer of pig meat. The EU has typically supplied around 40 per cent of Korean imports, with the US, Canada and Chile the other major suppliers. The significance of South Korea as a market for major exporters rose during 2011, following a major outbreak of Foot & Mouth Disease. Although the country’s pig industry is gradually recovering from this, it is still importing more pork than before the outbreak.
BPEX / AHDB Country Reports

Pig Numbers

During the 2010/11 Foot & Mouth Disease outbreak, South Korea culled around 3.4 million pigs, around one third of the total herd. This led to the number of sows falling by a quarter from 976,000 head in December 2010 to 732,000 in March 2011. Since then numbers have gradually recovered and by June 2012 the breeding herd was back close to its level before the outbreak at 969,000 head.

In response to the FMD outbreak, many pig farms were required to fully disinfect their facilities prior to repopulating. This has led to an improvement in health status, with larger litters and lower mortality. Relaxation of tariffs on import of breeding stock has also contributed to improved productivity. As a result, the pig crop is expected to rise from 13.3 million head in 2011 to 15.9 million in 2012.


In 2011, South Korea slaughtered 10.8 million pigs, 26 per cent fewer than the previous year as a result of the reduction in the herd size following the FMD outbreak. In the first six months of 2012, throughputs totalled 6.5 million head. This was 23 per cent up on the previous year but was still around 10 per cent lower than in the same period of 2010. Carcase weights have also increased slightly meaning a slightly greater increase in pig meat production, which amounted to just over 500,000 tonnes in the first half of the year.

South Korean Pig Slaughterings

Source: QIA, USDA


With domestic production constrained following the FMD outbreak, the South Korean government announced a zero duty tariff-rate-quota of 260,000 tonnes for 2011. This was extended into the first half of 2012, with a quota of 70,000 tonnes. As a result of this move and the increased demand for imported pork, shipments of fresh and frozen pork increased by 68 per cent to 487,000 tonnes in 2011.

During the first nine months of 2012, imports remained well above 2010 levels but were down by nearly a quarter on the same period of 2011. By the third quarter, the year-on-year fall was over 40 per cent but shipments were still 30 per cent higher than the third quarter of 2010. Most of the major suppliers of pork to South Korea shipped less in the first nine months of 2012 than a year earlier. The main exception was Germany, which became the leading EU supplier with volumes up by 45 per cent. Although still small, shipments from the UK were also higher on the year at 1,800 tonnes.

January – September

Source: USDA

Unit prices for pork imports rose sharply in 2011, increasing by 22 per cent to 3,245 won ($2.95) per kg. In the first nine months of this year, prices have increased further, reaching 3,457 won ($3.04) per kg, despite lower domestic prices.


The disruption in the South Korean market last year caused by the FMD outbreak was also apparent in pig prices. Across 2011 as a whole, carcase prices were up by nearly half and for most of the first half of the year, the uplift was over 60 per cent. Prices peaked at over 7,500 won ($6.82) per kg in June 2011. By the start of 2012, prices had fallen back to around 20 per cent above their level two years before and by the second quarter of the year they were close to 2010 levels. In June 2012, the average price was more than a third lower than a year earlier at just under 5,000 won.

South Korean Pig Carcase Price

Source: NACF, USDA


As indicated above, the major factor in the South Korean pig industry this year has been the recovery from the FMD outbreak in late 2010/early 2011. During the first half of 2012, slaughterings were back to around 90 per cent of their level in 2010. Further recovery is expected in the second half of the year, taking throughputs for the year as a whole to around 94 per cent of their pre-outbreak level. This would represent an increase of over a quarter compared with last year. With carcase weights only slightly higher, pig meat production is also expected to increase at a similar rate. By 2013, the industry should have largely recovered and slaughterings and production are expected to be close to 2010 levels. This represents a five per cent increase compared with 2012.

Despite increased imports, the lower domestic production and resulting higher prices, led to a fall in pig meat consumption in South Korea. With production recovering, prices lower and imports remaining relatively high, consumption is set to recover much of the lost ground this year. This trend is expected to continue into next year, with consumption set to exceed its level in 2010, reflecting higher incomes as a result of economic growth since then.

South Korean Pig Meat Production and Consumption Forecasts

January 2013

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