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Taste Korean Enoki Mushroom Containing Much Nutrition and Food Fiber

The Korea Mushroom Council (KMC) was established in December last year as a specialist organization to deal with all business matters concerning enoki mushroom. The KMC was established right after the Mushroom Exporting Association was formed. It is an organization comprising ten big mushroom-producing companies working together for marketing, exporting and pricing. It effectively has the status of being the marketing board for Enoki mushroom export.

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The exporting amount of enoki mushrooms was USD 21,270,000 last year, which was double that for 2008 at USD 11,260,000. The main exporting countries are China (including Hong Kong), the United States, Australia, and some countries in Southeast Asia, Europe and Africa. Notably, the amount for China/Hong Kong took 67.6% of the total export amount; the figures were USD 9,320,000 and 5,070,000 respectively in 2009.

Enoki mushroom is popular as an ingredient in many dishes because it is delicious and nutritious. The mushroom is very good with meat dishes because it contains much food fiber that helps to control the cholesterol level in blood. Moreover, it contains vitamins, calcium, potassium and protein and so more export can be expected. The facilitating role of the KMC is crucial in this regard.
Agrafood : First of all, could you state the main reason for the establishing of the KMC?

Mr. Park Bok-gyu (Mr. Park) : The KMC is an organization of ten mushroom-producing companies established on December 11 last year as one of the leading organizations for exporting agriproducts organized by the Korean government. Before the KMC was established, enoki mushrooms were exported by individual companies and this involved excessive competition and attendant low prices. Thus the KMC was started to secure better profits, to prevent excessive competition, and control the amount of produce for a better market price. Expanding the amount of exporting is also one of the reasons to secure higher profitability especially when the producing amount of enoki mushrooms is growing sharply.

Agrafood : This year is technically the first year of the KMC; so can you state your plans for rest of 2010?

Mr. Park : There is a ‘Check Price System’ in our plan. Members promise to keep the lower limit price that they set themselves. The scheme is for preventing the dumping of sales on the export market and the lower limit for 2010 is USD 1.5 per kg. There is no compulsion involved; it’s a question of trust among the members.

In this connection, the varied role of the Korea Agro-Fisheries Trade Corporation (aT) is also quite important: overseeing the council and the quality of products, the unification of ways to export, developing a unified brand, marketing abroad, promotion, inviting buyers and training in technique. We are supporting the incentive to develop the environment for exporting to the figure of 15% of the shipping fare and 15% of the incentive for activation of export by the aT.

Agrafood : Can you comment on the competitive power of the KMC?

Mr. Park : There are fifteen enoki mushroom companies in Korea ten of which are members of the KMC. They contribute 95% of the total producing amount of enoki mushrooms. The KMC is the first council exporting enoki mushroom together. Presently, individual companies work with their own buyers but when a company cannot export as much as they contract to do other companies can do so instead. So, exporting and facilitation can be stabilized and a reasonable price is possible.

Agrafood : Mushroom is becoming a major exporting item. What is the KMC’s plan regarding overseas marketing of the KMC?

Mr. Park : The financial goal for this year is the ambitious figure of USD 17,760,000. The exporting countries are China (including Hong Kong), Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the United States, Australia, Canada, Netherlands, France and Spain. The main target market for 2010 is China/Hong Kong and we are going to focus on not only big cities like Beijing and Shanghai but smaller ones as well. To launch our expansion into the Chinese market the KMC will host a big tasting event this month in Beijing.

Agrafood : What kind of support do you need for activating exports?

Mr. Park : I would welcome government support for opening specialized mushroom restaurants abroad under the grand umbrella project of the globalization of Korean food. If the restaurants are opened in, say, Europe, Canada and the United States, and develop menus western people like such a venture will contribute to the raising the awareness of Korean food abroad and will add to the exporting amount of our mushrooms. And a policy to stop supporting the shipping cost of those companies who don’t keep ‘the check price’ is definitely needed.

Park Sung Eun  parkse@agrinet.co.kr

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