Korean agricultural and food product export is making noticeable achievements thanks to the export-boosting policies of the Korean government and despite the challenges it faces at home and abroad. It is estimated that the government’s export promotion policy directly contributes to the annual export growth rate of over 5%. At the turn of the year, Korea Agrafood met with Kim Young-rok, Minister of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs who is relentlessly seeking ways to expand Korean food exports. Among the topics Minister Kim discussed were the international competitiveness of Korean food, the markets where Korean food is popular, and the export policies that the ministry intends to focus on.
Korea Agrafood (KA): The Korean agricultural and food export is growing by over 5% a year, increasing its share in the global market. How big is the export and its share in the world?
According to GlobalData Plc, an expert in food trend analysis, the global food market growth rate has averaged 1.9% a year. Its size was US$ 6.8 trillion in 2013, US$ 6.3 trillion in 2015, US$ 6.7 trillion in 2017, and is expected to reach US$ 7.7 trillion in 2018. In the face of such difficulties such as unfavorable exchange rates, market liberalization, and accelerating global competition due to trade barriers, the Korean food exports were still able to increase in 2017 by 5.6%, thereby growing by over 5% in two consecutive years. It is fair to say that Korea has firmly established its place as a food exporter, ranking 35th in the global exported food market, according to the Global Trade Atlas (2016).
Southeast Asia is emerging as an important market for Korean agricultural products, along with China, the US, and Japan. Korean products there seem to benefit from the Korean Wave. What are the most popular products?
The ASEAN market rapidly rose in 2017 to the second position in imports of Korean food, next only to Japan. The ASEAN market in general has been expanding over the last few years due to the high economic growth rate and larger middle class. Thanks to the Korean Wave, there is a good potential for further expansion of Korean food in the region.
The Korean government is pushing forward with projects specialized for each particular country in South East Asia, with a view to developing ASEAN into the second largest importer of Korean food. The most promising products—and already popular in Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia—are fruit and vegetables such as strawberry, pear, and grape as well as other products like ramyeon.
What are the most popular Korean agricultural products in Japan, the US, and China, and what are the reasons for their popularity?
The export amount of fresh food last year was 1.1 billion dollars, remaining at the previous year’s level, because chicken export was jeopardized in the wake of an avian influenza outbreak. Pear sales to the US increased by 4.5% compared to the previous year, and the fruit is mainly distributed in supermarkets targeting Koreans and other Asians. In Japan, bell pepper is gaining popularity, and the Korean bell pepper takes up 78% of the market thanks to its excellent quality and competitive price.
In Europe, there is a growing demand for Korean mushrooms, as local consumers take an increasing interest in health and Asian food. Last year, for example, sales of enokitake and king oyster mushrooms rose by 24.3% and 12.4%, respectively, compared to the previous year. Southeast Asian countries consistently import pears and apples because those fruits cannot be locally produced, and in 2017, their import of the two fruits from Korea increased by 30.6% and 12.1%, respectively.
A variety of marketing strategies are needed to gain popularity among consumers in different countries. What is your plan for the expansion of agricultural exports this year?
We want to increase the number of countries where Korea exports over US$ 400 million in food products from four to seven countries this year by diversifying export markets and boosting exporters’ competitiveness. In ASEAN, we will focus on increasing the number of countries where Korea exports over US$ 200 million worth of food from last year’s one country to three.
We plan to host K-Food Fair in twenty countries, selected mainly from ASEAN which boasts great growth potential. We will conduct market surveys and look for buyers by dispatching aT experts and market pioneers into those countries.
Another important strategy is to nurture integrated organizations specializing in export of different fresh farm products, in order to ensure stable supply of the export volume and enhance the quality and safety management of the exported products. We will also strengthen our support for individual farmers engaged in exports, by creating a total support platform. In regards to integrated export organization, they will be able to use an upgraded system of support in overseas marketing, logistics, and other areas. In addition, we will offer customized services, such as the fostering of global brands and help in acquisition of international certifications. By introducing beneficiary-oriented export vouchers, we will be able to ensure that companies can select and obtain the type of support they require.
Is there anything you would like to say to consumers around the world who purchase Korean food products?
Min. Kim: I wholeheartedly wish you success and good health in 2018. I hope you keep an eye on and enjoy Korean products throughout the year. The Korean government will work hard to export more high-quality, safe, and healthy products for the benefit of our international consumers.
Lee Young Ju firstname.lastname@example.org