Unsold milk keeps piling up in storages and attempts to use it to make cheese, about the only dairy product still selling in the market, have been foiled by heavy imports, industry officials said Tuesday.
Trouble for the local dairy business turned serious in November 2014, when the milk stock surpassed 200,000 tons for the first time. According to the Korea Dairy Committee, there were 244,146 tons of leftover milk as of March this year, the 16th month that the stock has exceeded 200,000 tons.
South Korea’s yearly milk consumption dropped from 30.8 kilograms per person in 2000 to 26.6 kg in 2015, the main reason for unsold milk as consumers choose other food sources with the same nutrients, industry officials said. The falling birthrate in the country has worsened the problem, they said.
The government has been inducing a cutback in the number of dairy cattle since late 2013, but the fall in consumption has been faster, according to the officials.
The only viable option is to use the unsold milk to make processed foods, such as cheese, whose consumption is increasing at a steady pace. The Korea Dairy Committee said an average South Korean consumed 2.6 kg of cheese last year, much more than the 1 kg in 2000. But industry officials say much of the sold cheese were imported products.
Domestic cheese production actually fell from 27,404 tons in 2000 to 23,188 tons last year, but imports increased from 60,971 tons to 111,521 tons over the same period. Imported cheese accounted for 82.8 percent of the local market in 2015.
Some advise bringing down the price of locally produced milk.
«Local milk is three times more expensive than imported milk.
There is no reason to use the more expensive milk to make cheese when the industry is in a deep slump,» a dairy businessman said.
Others say a lack of brand image and consumer loyalty have to be addressed first.
«For most foods, people think that locally made products are better in taste and quality. But for cheese, people who drink wine choose imported cheese,» another businessman said. «Like beef, for which consumers prefer the Korean beef ‘hanwoo’ over foreign beef even if it’s twice as expensive, we need to change the way people think about Korean cheese.»