South Korean chainstores again stocking U.S. beef
SEOUL (AFP) – Major South Korean retailers said Tuesday they would resume U.S. beef sales for the first time since mass protests against the imports rocked the country, citing the need for cheap food during hard times.
The Korea Chainstores Association said U.S. beef would be back on shelves from Thursday at the top three discount stores – Lotte Mart, E-Mart and Homeplus, which is owned by the U.K.’s Tesco Corp. (TESO).
“The retailers agreed that they had no reason to continue keeping the low-priced U.S. beef off the shelves in consideration of consumers’ convenience and price stability in this economic slump,” an association statement said.
On Oct. 22, DTN’s Tokyo Correspondent Richard Smith reported that this announcement would be coming.
U.S. beef is about half the price of local “hanwoo” beef.
South Korea was once the world’s third-largest market for U.S. beef, with imports worth $850 million per year, until they were suspended in 2003 after a U.S. case of mad cow disease.
Last year, authorities briefly resumed imports of boneless beef from cattle aged under 30 months, but these were suspended after banned bone chips were found in some shipments.
In hopes of pushing ahead with a wider free trade deal, the Seoul government in April agreed to resume imports of most cuts of U.S. beef. But the pact sparked months of mass street protests, ostensibly over mad cow disease fears.
The sometimes violent rallies subsided only after Seoul secured extra health safeguards for the meat. Sales resumed on July 1, but only at small shops.
Imports of U.S. beef have recently topped those from other countries despite the restricted retail outlets.
Between Sept. 1 and Nov. 18, 32,678 tons of U.S. beef was imported, accounting for 56 percent of the total and compared with 22,400 tons of Australian beef, quarantine authorities said.