Retailers beef up promotions to increase hanwoo sales

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Retailers beef up promotions to increase hanwoo sales

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Consumers try hanwoo, or Korean beef, at E-Mart’s Eunpyeong branch in northwestern Seoul on Thursday at a hanwoo sales promotion event. The three-day promotion that offered 30 percent discounts on hanwoo ended yesterday. By Seo Gye-ho


Large food retailers usually compete to sell pork during the summer, as samgyeopsal, or pork belly, is the dish of choice for many Korean meat lovers.

But this year the situation has changed, with grocery stores rolling up their sleeves to increase their sales of hanwoo, or Korean beef.

The move comes amid fears that consumers may cut their beef consumption, according to the Hanwoo Association, a group representing the country’s cattle farms.

“Beef consumption has dwindled due to the economic recession,” said Seo Young-soek, director at the Hanwoo Association’s distribution management division.

“If this continues, it is obvious that we will see beef prices plummeting. [To prevent such an event,] cattle farms and retailers are jointly holding some promotional events to increase beef consumption.”

Since the plummeting of beef prices hurts not only the cattle farms but also retailers, E-Mart, the nation’s largest grocery chain, held a special three-day promotion until yesterday offering up to 30 percent discounts on beef.

Lotte Department Store and other large retailers will also introduce similar promotions later this week.

An oversupply of local livestock is the major reason for the possible price drop of Korean beef. As of June, Korea breeds a total of 3.07 million cows while the association says the appropriate number for the local market is 2.5 to 2.6 million.

The Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said there was a total of 2.9 million live cattle in 2009 and 1.4 million in 2001.

The country has more cows than last year when it saw prices plummeting by more than 20 percent.

The price of one kilogram of hanwoo bone meat went down to 12,714 won last year while the current price nears 12,822 won.

Officials at the Agriculture Ministry said the jump in the number of cows was a result of a surge in demand for local beef after 2008, when consumers were frightened by rumors of mad cow disease in U.S. beef.

Industry analysts said that a price rise in pork could lead to increased hanwoo consumption.

However, pork prices dropped around 2.5 percent this year compared to 2011 with pork sales rising 35 percent on-year.

By Chang Chung-hoon [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

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