WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — A free trade agreement put in place between the United States and Korea back in 2012 has led to a boost in U.S. grain imports by South Korea.

According to the U.S. Grains Council (USGC), imports of U.S. grains in all forms have increased 78% since the implementation of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) in 2012. Meanwhile, South Korea has set or broken sales records for purchases of U.S. corn, sorghum, ethanol and distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS).

The USGC said South Korea increased its purchases of U.S. feed grains and co-products to a record 9.3 million tonnes in 2017-18, up 11.8% from the previous year.

South Korea ranks as the second largest buyer of U.S. DDGS, the third largest buyer of U.S. corn and the sixth largest buyer of U.S. ethanol, the USGC said.

“The growth in demand for U.S. commodities like corn, DDGS and ethanol in Korea is the direct result of years of the Council’s groundwork,” said Haksoo Kim, USGC director in South Korea. “The Council has been here actively promoting these commodities and — in the case of DDGS — directly building demand. It’s only gotten better since the two countries signed the KORUS agreement.”

The USGC said U.S. corn exports to South Korea have increased 61% since KORUS went into effect in 2012. The country bought 5.74 million tonnes of U.S. corn in 2017-18, up 2.4% from the previous year. The Council said the increase in corn imports reflects increased poultry and duck feed production and decreases in feed wheat imports compared with the previous year.

Imports of U.S. sorghum and barley also have been strong, the USGC noted. At 59,800 tonnes, imports of U.S. sorghum set a new record in 2017-18, while U.S. barley imports have increased by 116% since KORUS went into effect, to 7,290 tonnes.

Imports of U.S. DDGS exceeded 1 million tonnes for the first time. At 1.18 million tonnes, imports were up more than 22% from 2016-17, the USGC said. The Council said South Korea has established a new high in imports each year since 2010-11.

“Now, 97% of feed millers in South Korea include U.S. DDGS in their rations for the country’s livestock and poultry industries, thanks to work started by the USGC in 2004 to introduce this feed ingredient,” the USGC noted. “The Council continues to work to increase average inclusion rates by providing additional technical expertise and business opportunities between U.S. suppliers and Korean buyers.”