South Korea's livestock farmers are being forced to pay more to import animal feeds from abroad in line with soaring international grain costs. But prices of locally produced beef and poultry have declined on falling consumption, hitting domestic livestock raisers hard.
In a survey of 1,400 farming households producing beef, pork, milk, chicken and eggs, released by the National Statistical Office (NSO) Wednesday, farmers breeding pigs earned an average of 56,000 won per head in 2007, down 41.7 percent from 96,000 won a year earlier.
The pig farmers spent 183,000 won on average to produce 100 kg of pork, up 5.2 percent from 174,000 won, while making 221,000 won from the sale of 100 kg of pork, down 10.9 percent from 248,000 won.
Farmers also earned less from raising cows and calves as prices decreased to 736,000 won per head over the past year. Surging animal feed prices and other production-related costs played a role in aggravating the profitability of livestock farming, but the resumption of American beef was the main culprit behind their worsening bottom line, the statistical office said.
Production costs rose 3 percent last year but prices of cows and calves dropped 17.7 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively.
However, the earnings of farmers breeding chickens increased 49 percent as they made 282 won per head last year, up from 189 won, helped by falling prices of chicks.
Livestock farmers here will likely have to brace for the worse this year as avian influenza ― which is sweeping the nation ― along with the resumption of imported U.S. beef and the mad cow disease concerns, lowers meat consumption and reduces farmers' income.
``More farmers have begun breeding cows, pigs and chickens in recent years to generate greater income on rising meat demand from wealthier Korean consumers. But the oversupply has put downward pressure on meat prices and made livestock raisers poorer,'' an NSO official said.
He also said the prices of imported grain-based animal feeds have surged in line with other international commodities, projecting that the public fear over the avian influenza and the safety issue of U.S. beef will keep meat consumption low and further aggravate the earnings of livestock farmers.