Governor Pillen’s recent trade mission to South Korea and Japan on one day ended with a dinner in the South Korean city of Incheon featuring Nebraska beef. One goal of the mission was to promote Nebraska agriculture and events like the dinner provided agricultural officials the opportunity to showcase high-quality Nebraska beef and build relationships with overseas customers. Nebraska agriculture depends on these kinds of efforts.
Japan and South Korea are important customers for Nebraska particularly for Nebraska’s top agricultural exports like beef, corn, soybeans, and pork. Japan and South Korea are the top two markets for U.S. beef. Since 2018, beef exports to Japan have averaged 829 million pounds and those to South Korea 716 million pounds. Japan’s beef purchases accounted for 26 percent of average annual U.S. beef exports and South Korea’s, 21 percent. Japan is also the largest purchaser of U.S. pork averaging 1.2 billion pounds, 18 percent of average annual U.S. pork exports. South Korea, too, is a large pork importer averaging 577 million pounds annually, or 9 percent of the U.S. annual total.
Japan and South Korea are also large importers of U.S. grains and oilseeds. Japan typically ranks as the second-largest purchaser of corn with only Mexico buying more. And Japan is the fifth-largest importer of soybeans. South Korea is the fifth-largest purchaser of corn. And both countries are typically among the top five importers of U.S. wheat.
U.S. trade agreements with the two nations have provided greater market access for Nebraska agriculture. As tariffs are further reduced, U.S. exports, especially beef and pork, are expected to grow. But it is incumbent on Nebraska agriculture to do the work on the ground to sell its products. Trade missions help serve that role.