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Koreas imports of US corn triples, market share sharply higher

Despite tightening demand and relatively higher prices, Korea is importing more corn from the United States, to the point where the country's imports have tripled compared to the same period in 2007, accounting for 93 percent of its corn usage.


August 8, 2008
By United States Grains Council

August 8, 2008

Korea’s imports of distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) have more than tripled during the first half of 2008 compared to the same period last year.
During the first half of the year, Korea imported 281,900 metric tons of DDGS representing a 259 percent increase over the 75,500 tons imported during the same period in 2007. Of that amount, more than 64 percent of the total, or 181,800 tons, came from the United States, compared with 60 percent or 47,100 tons during the same period last year.


The significant growth of DDGS imports to Korea is a direct result of promotional activities undertaken by the U.S. Grains Council in-country.


"We began promoting DDGS in Korea in 2003 even though it was not part of our regular program at the time," said Byong Ryol Min, USGC director in Korea. "In 2004 we invited Dr. Jerry Shurson, a professor of animal science at the University of Minnesota, to lead a seminar on the nutritional value of DDGS; we invited potential users to attend. Several other consultants have held successful workshops in Korea since then, and we are now using local consultants to provide one-on-one consultations with feed and livestock end-users," he said, adding that Korean end-users have responded well to the Council’s consultant program.


The Council’s office in Korea also translated copies of its DDGS User Handbook, which is distributed to industry representatives. In 2005-06, feeding trials for broiler, layer and swine were held with great success, and Korea is now preparing to conduct its first DDGS feeding demonstration for dairy cows in September.


"I think this growth of DDGS exports to Korea will continue," Min said. "Current feed prices may be a factor, but I think more importantly, Korea’s feed millers have a better understanding about the feed value of DDGS compared to what they knew in the past."


In 2007, the country imported approximately 130,700 tons of DDGS. Min estimated Korea will import more than 450,000 tons this year.


With US interests increasing imports of corn, Korea’s share of US corn is now closer to 100 percent. And the notion of tightening supplies and higher corn prices had little impact on Korea’s commitment to purchasing high quality U.S. feed grains.


The United States enjoys a "lion’s share" in Korea’s corn import market so far in 2008. According to U.S. Grains Council Director in Korea Byong Ryol Min, the United States supplied Korea with 4.7 million metric tons (185 million bushels) which translated into 93 percent of the nation’s total imports. This is compared to a 52 percent share during the same period in 2007.


Specifically, Korea imported 5.1 million metric tons (200 million bushels) of U.S. corn during the first half of this year, representing a 14 percent increase over 4.5 million tons (177 million bushels) during the same period last year. "The increase in corn imports is mainly attributed to the substantial decrease in feed wheat imports," said Min. Korea imported only 9,000 tons of feed wheat in the first half of this year compared with 486,000 tons in the same period last year.


"Another win for U.S. farmers is the fact that the Korean Corn Processing Industry Association (KCPIA) imported 89 percent of its total requirement from the United States – far above 9.2 percent in 2007. The local corn processing industry started buying biotech corn for food use early this year," Min said, citing KCPIA’s purchase of 697,000 metric tons (27.4 million bushels) of genetically enhanced corn in the first two months of 2008.


USGC President and CEO Ken Hobbie said Korea is a vital market for U.S. producers and expressed the Council’s commitment to sustaining the strong relationship established through years of market development initiatives there.


"The Council will continue building and maintaining relationships with Korea’s livestock, poultry, feed and food industries. We have not and will not relax our commitment in Korea to implementing programs that educate and assist end-users, biotechnology regulators and such," said Hobbie. "We also continue to maintain our support of a free trade agreement with Korea as it will serve as a win-win for all of U.S. and Korean agricultural interests, especially in regards to market expansion for barley and value-added agricultural products."