Korea's food imports surge on greater demand

South Korea’s food imports have been rising sharply in recent years mainly due to increased consumer demand for more diverse products, data showed Wednesday.

Asia’s fourth-largest economy posted 554,177 import reports of processed food and agrofisheries products in 2014, up 25.5 percent from 441,530 shipments tallied for the whole of 2010, according to data from the Korea Food and Drug Administration.

Over the same period, the value of imports also shot up 45.5 percent, while the volume of inbound shipments rose 10.3 percent.

Of the total imported, 38.1 percent were processed food, with meat and fisheries accounting for 15.2 percent and 13.9 percent, respectively. Farm and forestry products also made up 9.7 percent, with kitchen utensils and food containers accounting for the rest.

“A more diverse diet has created demand for more foreign food products that helped push up numbers,” the agency said.

The KFDA said imports from the United States soared 41.4 percent in terms of shipments reported, with numbers for France and China jumping 40.8 percent and 22.4 percent each. Inbound shipments from Australia, another food exporting country, rose 12.6 percent.

Despite a rise in imports from many countries, the state agency tasked with regulating food and drug quality and safety said shipments from Japan, a key trading partners, plunged 36.3 percent.

In 2010, imports from the neighboring country reached 60,606 shipments, or 13.7 percent of the total, but they dropped to 9.3 percent in 2011 and 7.7 percent in 2012.

The KFDA said the drop followed the massive Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 that crippled the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant and caused a large amount of radioactive material to contaminate the surrounding regions.

“Concerns regarding potential radioactive contamination of food from Japan dampened demand that has not changed over time,” a source said.

In 2014, only 1,242 food shipments came from Japan, accounting for 0.22 percent of the total.

The data also showed that of the 159 countries that shipped food to South Korea in 2014, some products from 54 countries did not meet local requirements.

Of products that failed to conform to local rules in the one year period, 242 shipments were from China. Numbers for the United States and Vietnam stood at 184 cases and 87 cases each.

All products that failed to meet domestic standards were sent back to the exporter or destroyed, the agency said. (Yonhap)


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