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First Chilean Chicken Arrives in South Korea

by 5m Editor
16 August 2010, at 10:39a.m.

SOUTH KOREA - The first poultry imports from Chile have arrived in Korea.

Korea Times reports that 20 tons of chicken from Chile arrived in Korea last week, marking the first time Chilean poultry is being imported here and coming nearly six years after a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the countries came into effect in 2004.

Hernan Gutierrez B., minister counselor and director of the commercial office at the Chilean Embassy in Seoul, said: "Korea has become a very important market for Chilean pork, and now it will become an important market for our chicken, contributing to the diversification of markets for the Chilean meat industry.

"In Chile, the meat industry leads the growth of our food industry, one of the main sources of employment, innovation and technological improvement."

To promote the arrival of the new import, the embassy prepared a small tasting event on 13 August evening for local meat importers and restaurant representatives.

But the current market situation in Korea may not offer much hope for Chilean exporters.

According to Kim Dong-jin from the Korea Poultry Association, demand for imported chicken in Korea is low.

Almost 85 per cent of demand is met by local production, and imports from Brazil and the United States dominate the rest of the market.

According to the association’s statistics, Korea consumes some 540,000 tons of chicken a year on average. Last year, the amount imported from Brazil was 30,000 tons and from the US, 31,000 tons.

Korea exports 10,500 tons of local chicken products annually, primarily to destinations in Asia such as Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Hong Kong.

Chile, meanwhile, is world's 12th largest exporter of chicken.

The Korea-Chile FTA is expected to create a comparative advantage for Chile, which was the aim of the exporters, according to Korea Times.

According to the embassy, Chile produced around 507,519 tons of the meat last year. Roughly one quarter was exported to Mexico – the top destination – followed by the European Union, China, Hong Kong, the US and Peru.

Mr Kim from the poultry association was more concerned about the impact of US chicken on the market when the KORUS FTA is approved by the legislatures of the respective countries.

The FTA with the US is currently caught up in the ratification process, however.

Mr Kim explained: "Although demand is small, low-priced meat could really change things."

In fact, the National Chicken Council of the US, together with 40 other agricultural and food organisations, recently sent a letter to leaders in Congress urging for prompt ratification of the FTA. US President Barack Obama has said he wants the agreement finalised by the time Seoul hosts the G20 Summit in November.