South Korea's food and agriculture products imports from the United States have dropped in the second quarter despite the start of their Free Trade Agreement (FTA), a trade organization said Monday.
Shipments of agriculture and food products from the United States to the country came to some US$1.91 Billion in the April-June period, down 16.8% from the same period last year, according to the Korea Agro-Fisheries and Food Trade Corporation (AT).
Imports in January and February increased 0.9% and 5.2% on-year, respectively, but following the implementation of the Korea-US FTA in March, South Korea-bound shipments took a sharp turnaround to an 8.8% dip that month and again experienced drops of 15.1% in April and 18.6% in June.
The AT attributed the drop partly to a decrease in the amount of meat imports, made more eminent by the report of a mad cow disease case in the US in April.
US beef imports in the second quarter dropped 20.5% from a year earlier to $124 Million with shipments of pork to South Korea also plunging 35.8% on-year to $112 Million.
Government officials said it was too soon to conclude damage from the Korea-US FTA to the country's farming industry will be minimal.
"Imports dropped due to an outbreak of mad cow disease in the US and worsening consumer sentiments here, but these may be only temporary phenomena," said an official from the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
The official noted the country's imports of soybeans from the U.S. more than tripled from a year earlier last month to $97 million with imports of cherries in the April-June period also jumping 80.2% on-year.
"The Korea-U.S. FTA has completely removed import tariffs on fruits that are not produced here, which means the country's imports of such products will likely continue to rise in the future," the official said.