A route to the South Korean market for Irish beef is a step closer.

Ireland’s application for beef is currently on the fifth of an eight-step process; however, several important steps must be completed before access is gained for Irish beef.

Irish beef requirements

In a written response to a recent parliamentary question, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, said:

“Late last year, the Korean Ministry of Agriculture (MAFRA) concluded its examination of the Irish application, allowing the file to be transferred to parliament for consideration.

“Before that, however, the Korean authorities in line with their requirements held a 20-day public consultation on the proposed import health requirements that will apply to Irish beef once the market is opened.”

The consultation period closed on April 29, and it is understood that the MAFRA is currently making final preparations to formally transfer the Irish application to the Korean National Assembly for review.

“Assuming that the National Assembly votes to approve the application, which may take some time, Ireland will still have to complete several further steps to secure full access,” said Minister McConalogue.

These steps include approval of individual beef plants wishing to export to Korea, which will require an inspection visit by the relevant Korean authorities.

Meat consumers

According to Bord Bia, South Korean consumers are the highest, per capita, consumers of meat across Asia.

They consume a total of 79kg per person, with beef accounting for 17kg of this.

Meat consumption is forecast to grow over the next four years with beef consumption predicted to grow by 1% year on year, while pork consumption will grow by 1.5% year on year (Source: Fitch Solutions, 2020).

South Korea is only 35% self sufficient in beef production and in 2020, it imported over 481,777t of beef – 92% came from the US and Australia.

Frozen boneless beef is the most commonly imported beef product, accounting for over 41% of total beef imports, followed by frozen bone-in with 30%, while chilled beef accounts for just 20% (Source: IHS Markit 2021).

Brazil, traditionally a major player in Asian markets, does not have access to the Korean market.

Holland and Denmark were the first EU member states to be granted beef access into Korea in 2019 – however both are yet to make any significant shipments into the market, according to Bord Bia.

Given the strength of US beef in the market, awareness of grain-fed is high amongst Korean consumers however there is a trend towards more natural and healthy products which grass-fed beef is in a position to satisfy.