U.S. beef exports to South Korea reached record high in 2018

Line chart shows U.S. beef exports to South Korea from 1990 to 2018

Fifteen years ago, U.S. beef was banned in South Korea after the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the United States at the end of 2003. U.S. beef exports gradually reentered the market after the ban was partially lifted in 2006, and then markedly accelerated in the years following implementation of the 2012 United States-South Korea free trade agreement (KORUS), which reduced tariffs and non-tariff barriers. Recently emerging as an important market for U.S. beef exports, South Korea received more than half of the increase in U.S. total beef-export volume from 2017 to 2018, with 35 percent year-over-year growth. Further, South Korea received more than 20 percent of total U.S. beef exports in 2018. Likely drivers of this growth included strong consumer demand; lower tariffs than the next largest competitor, Australia; large exportable supplies of beef in the United States relative to Australia; and a relatively weaker U.S. dollar in the first half of the year. As a result, U.S. beef exports to South Korea exceeded the pre-BSE peak level of 597 million pounds in 2002, reaching 638 million pounds in 2018, and making the United States the largest supplier of beef to South Korea. This chart appears in the May 2019 ERS Amber Waves article, “U.S. Exports for Most Major Meat Commodities Grew in 2018.

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