Shipments of Irish beef to the 51 million consumer-strong market of South Korea could begin before the end of the year, assistant secretary at the Department of Agriculture Colm Hayes told Bord Bia’s meat marketing seminar on Friday.

Korea is the world’s fourth-largest importer of beef and the demand for imported beef continues to grow.

“As for Korea, it is a 10-year project, but we are very hopeful the finish line is now in sight. This is designated as one of the top four priority markets for Irish beef,” Hayes commented.

“Overall, it is an eight-step process and we have six of the steps completed. We were really stuck at one particular stage - the political stage - for the last two years and Minister McConalogue announced at the end of December that that stage had passed…so we are down to two final stages.”


The path towards Irish beef exports to Korea reached a significant milestone in December 2023 when the country’s parliament voted to allow access.

This left just the granting of a veterinary health certificate and the auditing of exporting plants by Korean authorities between Irish beef and the Korean marketplace.

Hayes stated that this auditing is expected to take place at some time over the “spring or summer”.

“So, famous last words, and I’m not always one for predictions, but I think we are in a good place. We have 10 years of investment put in, we have an excellent relationship with our Korean counterparts and I think one would like to think that we might see Irish beef landing in Korea within 2024,” the official said.

Growing value

Minister of State Martin Heydon hailed this progress as a “really significant development” for the granting of market access to Korea when addressing the seminar.

“I travelled to Korea last year and it represents an opportunity for Irish producers and processors with the significant Korean market,” Minister Heydon, who has responsibility for market development, said on Friday.

“Officials in my Department and the embassy in Seoul are engaging with their Korean counterparts to advance this process, as are the team in Bord Bia as well.

“I firmly believe the advancing and diversification of markets for Irish beef is central to the development of the sector and to growing the value of Irish agri-food exports,” he stated.

US and Australia exporters

Bord Bia’s EU market specialist Tadhg O’Callaghan gave a brief overview of Korean beef markets, where 50% of imports are sourced from the US and another 41% from Australia.

“Korea has the most expensive groceries in Asia and the sixth most expensive groceries in the world,” O’Callaghan explained.

“The average Korean consumer eats approximately 50kg of meat per year, 15kg of which is beef. The imported beef market continues to grow, with the US and Australia dominating.”