Korea’s food imports exceeded 30 trillion won (US$27 billion) last year. By item, imports of agricultural and forest products and processed foods were stagnant, but imports of livestock products, health functional foods, and expensive electric appliances (home electronics) for cooking increased, finally resulting in an increase.
On Jan. 31, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety estimated that Korea imported about US$27.4 billion worth or 18.55 million tons of food from 166 countries in 2018. Compared to 2017, food imports rose by 9.7 percentage points and the weight of imported food by 1.4 percentage points.
By country, imports from the US ranked first at US$6,432,390,000, followed by China (US $4,773,420,000), Australia (US$ 2,401,420,000), Vietnam (US$1,341,190,000), Russia (US$980,540,000). These top five countries accounted for 58.1 percent of total imports.
For reference, Korea imported wheat, corn and soybeans much from the US, materials for refining and processing, wheat and beef much from Australia, and Chinese cabbage kimchi, refined salt and pepper much from China.
By amounts, beef, pork and materials for refining and processing were high rankers. The item with the highest import growth rate was oats with an increase of 104.8 percentage points from the previous year. High import growth rates were also marked by avocados (93.1%), steel machinery (61.7%), aluminum machinery (59.2%) and soybean oil (56.8%).
Last year, the ratio of inedible imported foods stood at 0.2% (1,483 out of 728,119 cases). The most common reasons for nonconformity were violations of standards and specifications (content and acid value among others.).