South Korea's self-sufficiency rate of grain, beef and seafood sharply fell last year as imported food items appealed to consumer tastes with their lower prices and variety of flavors, according to government data on Sunday.
The nation's self-sufficiency rate of grain, excluding feed for animals, dropped to 48.4 percent in 2016, from 55.6 percent in 2010, showed the data by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
South Korea imports most of its animal feed. Including animal feed, the nation's self-sufficiency rate for grain stood at just 24 percent in 2015.
Separate data by the state-run Korea Rural Economic Institute estimated that the nation's self-sufficiency rate of beef might have fallen to 37.7 percent last year.
It was the first time in 13 years that the rate of beef fell below 40 percent.
Last year, South Koreans consumed 362,000 tons of foreign beef. Australian beef came to 178,000 tons, making up 49 percent of total beef imports. American and New Zealand beef stood at 42 percent and 6 percent, respectively.
Australian and American beef accounted for 54.8 percent of total sales of beef at E-Mart last year, with domestic beef, known as hanwoo, accounting for 45.2 percent.
South Korea's anti-graft law -- which took effect in September last year -- is also adding to the woes of the local beef industry.
Local beef was a favorite gift during major holidays, but has been overtaken by health products, according to major retailers.
In the case of seafood, imported items, mostly Chinese, accounted for about a half of local markets. At E-Mart, imported seafood items accounted for 49 percent of total seafood sales last year, compared with 20 percent in 2010.
About 91 percent and 80.5 percent of webfoot octopus sold at E-Mart and Lotte Mart each were imported items last year.
Sales of imported cutlass fish and mackerel also gained at the two discount chain stores.
An official at a discount chain store said demand for imported food items is growing because their prices are lower than domestic food items. (Yonhap)