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South Korea buys US biotech corn for food use

During the period of January 31 to February 15, the Korean Corn Processing Industry Association (KCPIA) purchased nearly 700,000 tonnes of genetically modified corn for April to August shipment, according to the United States Grains Council.


March 3, 2008
By United States Grains Council

February 28, 2008

South Korea has recently purchased the country’s first shipment of biotech corn via optional origin for the use of food purposes. Over the period of Jan. 31 – Feb. 15, the Korean Corn Processing Industry Association (KCPIA) has bought 697,000 metric tons (27.4 million bushels) of genetically modified (GM) corn for April – August shipment at $318.23 – $337.33 per tonne, cost and freight.  Most of the corn will be shipped from the United States, according to the exporters and KCPIA officials.

"This is a significant step forward in terms of broadening acceptance of GM crops for food use in Korea," said Byong Min, director of the U.S. Grains Council’s Korea office.

Korea’s acceptance of GM corn is expected to help the United States regain lost market share in the industrial corn processing sector. The Council has a long history of involvement with Korea's corn processors. Prior to the arrival of GM corn in Korea, the United States enjoyed a nearly 100 percent market share there.

"After GM corn was commercialized, U.S. market share fell to 0 percent," said Mike Callahan, USGC director of international operations for Asia. "The recent KCPIA purchases of GM corn are a significant, if not watershed event that will help restore the U.S. market share to former levels," he added.

Min said the remarkably high tonnage amount of these purchases is due to buyers anticipating a rise in corn prices.

"Buyers seriously considered using GM corn way before Korea bought its first cargoes at the end of January," he said. The sale is the result of a series of biotech conferences sponsored by the Council during which representatives from the Korean corn milling industry learned about the safety of GM crops.

"Since 2000 when a mandatory biotech foods labeling law was established in Korea, we have invited about 30 corn processing industry representatives to the United States on various educational missions," Min said.

The trips to the United States helped Korean industry representatives become familiar with U.S. corn production, handling, marketing and export systems with special reference to farmers’ preference for biotech corn. So far, Korea has bought a total of 6.5 million tonnes (257 million bushels) of corn for 2008 delivery, of which 56 percent comes from the United States. About 42 percent of the total is from optional origins with two percent arriving from India and China.

According to suppliers and buying groups, most of the corn cargoes bought from optional origin will be delivered from the United States, which will likely enjoy a more than 90 percent market share in Korea’s corn import market for 2008.