DENVER – Stretching well into its third month, South Korea’s foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) crisis has taking a severe toll on that country’s domestic swine herd and created a huge spike in pork prices. To help ensure an adequate supply of pork and alleviate soaring prices in the meat case, South Korea’s government has announced a tariff relief measure on 60,000 metric tons of imported pork, according to the US Meat Export Federation.

Pork imported into South Korea from most foreign suppliers is subject to a 25% duty. But between now and June 30, duty-free access will be granted for a 50,000 metric ton tariff rate quota (TRQ) of frozen pork products intended primarily for further processing. A separate, 10,000 metric ton TRQ has also been established specifically for frozen pork belly.

Dan Halstrom USMEF senior vice president, explains that establishing these duty-free TRQs is a constructive move on the part of the South Korean government because it will help its processors obtain badly needed supplies of pork and provide price relief for consumers. Although the TRQs are open to pork from many different origins, Halstrom says the US pork industry is well-positioned to benefit because it is South Korea’s largest supplier of imported pork.

“Approximately 25% to 30% of the swine herd in South Korea has been culled over the course of the last two months and it’s still not finished yet,” he said. “They are vaccinating but there’s still the process of culling herds that have new outbreaks. So what has happened during these two months you’ve seen the wholesale market price on pork in South Korea go sky high—we’re at record levels price-wise.”

Halstrom said that while the tariff rate quotas are open to pork from many different origins, the US pork industry is well positioned to benefit because it’s South Korea’s largest supplier of imported pork.

“The government announced a pork TRQ designed specifically to cap this inflationary pressure in the domestic pork prices,” Halstrom said. “This TRQ is a total of 60,000 metric tons of pork that will be allowed in at a zero duty rate, regular duty free for imported pork is 25% so a significant increase in the duty. The TRQ itself is split into two sections: one section is 10,000 metric tons, which focuses specifically on the belly, and the other part of the TRQ is 50,000 metric tons, which really focuses on pork for further processing. It’s not just open to the US; it’s open to any importing country, but the US is well positioned to capitalize on a large percentage of this TRQ.”