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U.S. Is Top Beef Supplier to South Korea

Due to a surge in sales last year, the U.S. is the No. 1 beef supplier to South Korea for the first time since mad cow disease was discovered in Washington state in 2003. Seoul imported 184,152 tonnes of U.S. beef worth $1.22 billion in 2017, says the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). “Demand is especially strong in the Korean retail sector, where consumer confidence in the quality and safety of U.S. beef continues to gain momentum.”

Australia was the dominant supplier for 14 years, taking advantage of the opening created by South Korea’s ban on U.S. beef in 2003. While U.S. beef shipments zoomed by 15% in 2017, Australia’s slipped by 4%, hurt by drought and by tariff rates that now favor U.S. beef. Because of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, there is a 21.3% tariff on U.S. beef this year; it’s scheduled to decline to 0% in 2026. Australian beef faces a 26.6% tariff this year, dropping to 0% in 2028. The tariff on U.S. beef was 40% before the FTA took effect.

U.S. beef exports were worth a record $7.27 billion in 2017, 2% higher than the 2014 mark. Shipments of 1.26 million tonnes, up 6% from 2016, were second largest in the post-mad cow era, says USMEF. 

This article was produced in collaboration with the Food & Environment Reporting Network, an independent, nonprofit news organization producing investigative reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.


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