Irish beef exports to South Korea are taking another step forward this week with the arrival of officials for factory inspections. The Irish Farmers Journal understands that they will visit seven Irish factories to approve their suitability for exporting beef to South Korea.

This is the second last step in the process, the final one being agreement of a veterinary certificate between Irish and South Korean veterinary authorities.

This has been under negotiation for some time, but it is understood that the discussions revolve around technical issues and are expected to be resolved.

Once the veterinary health certificate is concluded, and assuming that the seven factories being inspected are approved, then Irish beef will be cleared for export to the world’s fourth largest market for imported beef.

Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) data shows that South Korea imported 480,000 tonnes of beef product weight in 2023.

While it has plateaued over the past couple of years, it has grown rapidly over the past decade, with demand increasing by over 200,000 tonnes since 2014 and is now just behind Japan for beef imports, with further growth expected in the next decade.

Their main suppliers currently are the USA and Australia. In 2023, the US exported 249,000 tonnes to Korea, which was down from 294,000 tonnes in 2022 (USMEF), while Australian exports in 2023 increased to 189,000 tonnes, up from 161,000 tonnes in 2022 (MLA).

Ireland and France were given approval in December last year following an eighteen-month approval process in the Korean parliament.

This followed a trade mission to the country led by outgoing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and included Simon Harris, his successor subject to Dail approval, and is subject to a satisfactory inspection process and agreement of a veterinary certificate between the countries.

Access to the Korean market will mean that Irish beef now has approval to supply all of the world’s major beef importing countries, but the experience to date exporting outside the UK and Europe suggests that it will be a low volume market for the immediate future.

Agri-Food Regulator board

In last week’s feature on the Agri-food Regulator, we omitted Margaret Dineen from the list of board members. Margaret is CEO and founder of Blue Sky Food Consulting.