Hanwoo stands apart as other meat sales tumble

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Hanwoo stands apart as other meat sales tumble

Hanwoo, or Korean beef, bucked an otherwise downward trend as revenue from the sale of all other domestic and imported meat fell during the first quarter of the year, Lotte Mart reported yesterday.

According to the large discount store chain, meat sales decreased 11.9 percent year-on-year from January through March after an 11.3 percent drop in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the previous year.

Pork sales jumped 10 percent, but prices fell 15 to 20 percent and revenue shrank by 10.3 percent.

On the other hand, sales of hanwoo increased 10 percent in the fourth quarter of last year compared to the same period in 2011 and by 2.5 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of this year.

At Lotte mart, the price of premium hanwoo, based on 100 grams (3.5 ounces), declined by 13 percent in March compared to last year.

Meanwhile, the price of the U.S. beef increased 14 percent last month compared to 2012, despite the weak dollar and Korea-United States free trade agreement, on stronger demand from overseas markets such as China.

The price of Australian beef also went up 11 percent.

As the price gap between imported beef (5,700 won, or $5.03, per 100 grams) and hanwoo (4,400 won) narrowed by 22 percent in the first quarter, sales of imported beef decreased 33.5 percent year-on-year.

In particular, sales of imported beef plunged by more than half last month, causing chicken sales to exceed imported beef for the first time at Lotte Mart.

Sales of the Korean beef, which have been around 70 to 80 percent of that of pork, surpassed pork sales, also for the first time at Lotte Mart, a major Korean retailer.

“Alternative demand for hanwoo occurred as the price difference between hanwoo and import beef narrowed. Due to the rapid increase in demand for imported beef in the Chinese market, it is difficult to see a drop in the price of imported beef for the time being,” said Lee Kwon-jae, a team manager of Lotte Mart’s livestock products division.

By Kim Jung-yoon [kjy@joongang.co.kr]
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