South Korea’s beef imports surged to record highs in 2015 mainly on a spike in local meat prices, government data showed Wednesday.
The country imported more than $1.81 billion worth of beef last year that exceeded the previous record of $1.67 billion in 2014, according to data from the Korea Customs Service. It was also the highest figure since the agency started keeping such data in 1995.
“Demand for imports rose as local beef prices surged to levels seen in 2010 when the country’s cattle stock was devastated by a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak,” the KCS said.
The government’s recent policy of controlling the number of cattle to prevent price fluctuations also played a part, it added.
Despite a decline in the supply of Korean-bred cow meat over the past few years, the growing popularity of camping and other forms of outdoor recreational activities spurred demand for beef, causing hanwoo prices to rise and compelling consumers turn to imports, the agency said.
According to the Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation, 100 grams of first grade hanwoo beef ribs cost an average of 4,959 won ($4.10) on the market as of Tuesday, while the price for the same cut of meat imported from Australia stood at just 2,403 won.
Reflecting this, the KCS said Australian beef imports reached $972.9 million last year, making up 56.6 percent of the total, followed by U.S. beef imports that reached $749 million accounting for 41.3 percent. Imports from New Zealand, Canada and Uruguay made up the rest.