Imports of cheese are growing strongly and this trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, according to a new report from the US Foreign Agricultural Service. But Korea only has two sources of local cheese production and even most local cheese products are comprised of imported cheese. In 2006 therefore, total cheese imports are expected to increase 18 per cent to reach 52,000 metric tons, says the FAS report. This follows on from total imports of cheese products worth US$144 million (44,032 metric tons) in 2005, an increase of 20 per cent from the previous year. Local cheese production from local raw milk is constrained by the lack of manufacturing facilities and limited domestic milk production. In September 2004, Maeil Dairy established a new natural cheese manufacturing plant, using manufacturing techniques acquired from Japan under its SangHa brand name. The company is aiming to use surplus local raw milk to make cheese but it is not expected to impact demand for imported cheese in the near future, says the FAS. The demand for higher end gourmet cheese is also being boosted by increasing consumption of wine in Korea. The Korean wine market increased by 17 per cent in 2005 compared to the previous year and is up 37 per cent during first eight months in 2006 compared to same period of last year. This growing interest in wine and wine culture is likely to result in increased consumption of new to market and high quality cheeses, suggests the report. A variety of gourmet cheese is already imported for wine bars and high-end restaurants. Overall, Korea's per capita consumption of fluid milk is not expected to grow in coming years but total per capita consumption of milk products is expected to increase from 62.7 kilograms per capita in 2005 to 69.8 kilograms by 2010 boosted by higher consumption of cheese and ice-cream, according to the Korean Rural Economy Institute.