Cattle, pig and poultry are slaughtered in South Korea to contain its worst foot-and-mouth disease outbreak and combat avian flu. Feed grain imports will be down by at least 1.3 million tonnes this year, a Korea Feed Association (KFA) official said.
Weakening feed demand along with record high grain prices are likely to subdue buying activities of South Korean feed makers for a while unless the livestock outbreaks wane or global prices drop sharply, Kim Chi-young, director at the KFA's purchasing division, told Reuters.
As part of efforts to curb inflation and ensure supplies, South Korea, the world's fourth largest grain importer, is looking to build a strategic grain reserve and plans to buy cargoes of corn and other grains, joining similar efforts by more Asian nations worried about high food prices and social unrest.
Kim Chi-young said compound feed demand was seen dropping by at least 14% from last year's 17.5 million tonnes due to the recent livestock cull, resulting in a sharp drop in feed grain imports.
"While our members need to buy grain for June and July arrivals, we are taking a wait-and-see stance due to lower feed demand on top of bullish prices," Kim said.
Nationwide cases of foot-and-mouth disease have forced South Korea to cull 3.2 million pigs – nearly a third of its pig population – and 150,000 or about 5% of its cattle to stop the spread of the disease among livestock.
H5N1 virus, or avian influenza, also hit the country since late December, with about 4% of the country's poultry population or 5.5 million birds culled so far.
South Korea's largest feedmaker Nonghyup Feed said earlier this month that the country's feed output was projected to drop by a maximum 30% this year as more livestock would be slaughtered for meat if bans on their transfer were lifted.
North Korea also fights F&M
North Korea earlier this month also has confirmed cases of foot-and-mouth disease across the country and lodged the outbreak with the UN food agency, adding more than 10,000 head of draught oxen, dairy cows and pigs had been infected and thousands had died.
A team of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation is present in N. Korea and is looking at the situation regarding food shortages, but the primary aim of its mission was to help with the containment of the foot and mouth outbreak.