Korea lifts restrictions on U.S. hogs, pork

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WASHINGTON — The National Pork Producers Council hailed the Republic of Korea’s decision to inspect only a sample of U.S. pork exports rather than 100 percent of them and to lift a ban on live hog imports from the U.S. The restrictions were put in place in the wake of the H1N1 flu outbreak.

Pork industry losses

The U.S. pork industry, since September 2007, has lost nearly $4.5 billion, and producers have lost an average of more than $21 per hog marketed since then.

While high production costs — mostly feed grain prices — are the primary culprit for the industry’s economic woes, restrictions on U.S. pork and hog exports put in place in early May by a number of countries that cited fears of H1N1 exacerbated the problems.

In 2008 South Korea was the sixth largest market for U.S. pork, with exports valued at $284 million. In 2009 exports to Korea through May were down 10 percent by volume and 7 percent in value.

Breeding stock exports

Breeding stock exports to South Korea also are down in 2009 because of the H1N1-related ban. The country ranked as a top destination for U.S. live hogs in 2008 with exports of $1.1 million.

Korea’s decision to lift the restrictions will reignite enthusiasm for the U.S.-Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement, which contains tremendous benefits for U.S. pork producers, according to the council, which helped secure favorable treatment for U.S. pork and pork products.

Under terms of the FTA, tariffs on all frozen and processed pork products will be eliminated by 2014. Fresh chilled pork will be duty free 10 years after implementation. U.S. pork products currently face tariffs as high as 25 percent.

Additionally, South Korea has agreed to accept all pork and pork products from USDA-approved facilities.

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