Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sales of U.S. Beef Soaring

Just a few months ago, the streets of downtown Seoul were occupied by demonstrators protesting against the import U.S. beef. According to a number of polls, an absolute majority of people said they would not eat U.S. beef because they feel it is unsafe. But just three months after imports resumed on June 26 under new quarantine requirements, U.S. beef jumped to second in terms of market share in imported beef, after Australian product. Sales rose sharply just before the Chuseok or Korean Thanksgiving holiday; between Sept. 1 and 10, it even topped the imported beef market chart with a 48 percent market share.

◆ Chuseok Boost

Over 11,300 tons of U.S. beef have now passed the quarantine control and hit the shelves in Korean stores, 3,688 tons from Sep. 1 to 10. During that period, the market share of U.S. beef was 48.1 percent, jumping from 23.9 percent in July and 24.3 percent in August. From August, not only frozen beef but also refrigerated beef was imported.

◆ Young Skeptics

A considerable share of groundless rumors about mad cow disease is gone, and the website of the People’s Association for Measures Against Mad Cow Disease, which organized the protests, is virtually defunct. One online community on portal site Naver that saw more than 100 posts a day at the height of the furor, there was only one message on Monday. However, U.S. beef is still unpopular among young mothers in their 20s and 30s. A staffer in a butcher’s shop in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province, said, “While there are a lot of middle-aged housewives buying U.S. beef, there isn’t much demand from young mothers.

◆ Superstores & Malls Think Again

Superstores and department stores that have not started selling U.S. beef for fear it would spark indignation among customers are now reconsidering. Some are in the process of deciding when to start sales. A staffer with a superstore said, “We get a lot of call enquires asking us when we’re going to start selling U.S. beef from housewives in their forties and fifties. We assume the fears of mad cow disease have gone and are therefore deciding on when to start selling U.S. beef.”

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