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USMEF-Korea Unites Buyers, Sellers in Post-FTA Seminar

Published: Mar 27, 2012
Already a major importer of U.S. beef and pork, South Korea is poised for potential trade growth on the heels of the March 15 implementation of the U.S./South Korea free trade agreement. USMEF-Korea took steps to expedite that process recently, bringing together 150 top Korean meat buyers and eight American suppliers for a mutually beneficial session.

“This was one of the better events of this kind that we’ve attended,” said Kurt Holdmeyer, global product manager/pork for AJC International, Inc., an Atlanta-based exporter. “It was a great opportunity to meet with a large segment of the customer base in South Korea and discuss business opportunities and strategies for going forward. We made a lot of promising contacts with potential customers.”

The seminar, held March 22 in Seoul, attracted a broad array of existing buyers of U.S. red meat as well as others identified by USMEF-Korea staff as potential buyers who may be in the market to buy in the near future. They were introduced to eight U.S. suppliers: AJC International, Cargill Meat Solutions, Hormel International, Interra International, K1 International, Smithfield International Group, Van Luin Foods USA, Inc. and Western Reserve Protein Group.

The suppliers each had an opportunity to give a 10-minute presentation introducing their companies and products. Refrigerated showcases were provided for the display of meat samples. After the presentations, USMEF facilitated one-on-one meetings between the suppliers and interested potential buyers who represented importers, distributors, retailers, and the hotel and restaurant sector.

The value of the seminar for Korean buyers, according to Gangho Song of HanWha Trading, was that it introduced them to new suppliers of U.S. red meat.

This point was reinforced by Minseok Kim of Windy Foods, who said that his company is seeking to expand its list of suppliers, and this seminar provided him with valuable contacts and information.

“Some of the U.S. suppliers stayed the entire week meeting with potential buyers,” said Jihae Yang, USMEF-Korea director. “That shows us that the program was well-received and valuable to both sides.”

“The large turnout (of Korean buyers) is a direct result of the excellent relationships the USMEF-Korea team has developed,” said Bob Giertz, export manager for Atlanta-based Interra International. “The vast majority of the buyers are looking for new supply sources as an outgrowth of the free trade agreement, and a large percentage of them are currently buying from other countries, so this is a great opportunity for us.”

The seminar was offered with support from the USDA Market Access Program (MAP), and the Pork Checkoff and Beef Checkoff Programs.

In 2011, South Korea was the No. 4 market by value for U.S. beef and No. 5 for pork, purchasing 188,307 metric tons (415.1 million pounds) of pork valued at $497.1 million, and 154,019 metric tons (339.6 million pounds) of beef valued at $686 million. In the first month of 2012, the value of U.S. pork exports to Korea was up 61 percent over last January while beef was up 6 percent.