South Korean authorities are in the final stages of giving Ireland the green light to export beef there, the Irish Farmers Journal can reveal.

Beef from cattle under 30 months of age, including bone-in beef, is to be approved for export to South Korea, with no access for ground meat and processed products.

The South Korean ministry of agriculture has announced draft beef import hygiene conditions and will now submit the conditions to the country’s national assembly for discussion.

Once approved by the assembly, export conditions will be finalised and South Korea can begin to approve Irish meat factories to export beef.

Korea banned EU beef exports in 2000 due to BSE and it recently reopened for beef exports from the Netherlands and Denmark.

As well as Irish beef, French beef is also in the final stages of being granted approval to be exported to South Korea.

Significance of South Korea

South Korea was the fifth-biggest importer of beef in 2020 after China, USA, Japan and Singapore importing 482,000t of beef.

As Jack Hogan of Bord Bia reported in this week’s Irish Farmers Journal, 92% of this was supplied by the US and Australia, with most of the remainder coming from New Zealand and Canada.

As with Japan, Irish beef exports to South Korea will benefit from preferential tariffs as part of the EU-South Korea trade deal.

Currently, it will be 15% and phased out completely by 2027.

Being just 35% self-sufficient in beef and with the highest per capita beef consumption of any Asian country at 17kg per person annually, it is a major target market for Bord Bia and Irish beef exporters.

As with the approval for China, South Korea has a 30-month age limit and this was also the case with Japan until they removed that restriction in 2019.

A major distinction between South Korea and China is that Brazil doesn’t have access to South Korea, while it is the main supplier to China, accounting for 162,000t of the 398,000t China imported in the first two months of 2021.


South Korea is a market with real potential for Irish beef exports and the Irish industry, along with Bord Bia, have been preparing for this announcement for a long time.

Sales should grow quickly from a zero base, but, as Japan demonstrated, there are well-established players already supplying the market in the USA and Australia, supported by New Zealand and Canada.

However, with growing per-capita consumption and increasing consumer wealth, South Korea represents one of the best prospects as a market for growing Irish beef exports.

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