Fuyu persimmon is one of the three major fruits that Korea exports overseas. The export amount varies each year depending on the market conditions but always exceeds US$ 10 million. Southeast Asia is the biggest importer. Just like people in cooler regions enjoy exotic tropical fruits, consumers in Southeast Asia are attracted to the fruit from Korea, a country with temperate climate and four distinct seasons. After 20 years of steady exports of Korean fuyu persimmons to the region, the fruit has become a seasonal delicacy loved by many local people.
Most persimmons for export are grown in South Gyeongsang Province. Farms of the province take up as much as 60% of the total cultivation area of Fuyu persimmon in the country. In 2015, 6,100 tons of persimmons, which amounts to 70% of Korea’s total export volume of 8,600 tons, came from the agricultural cooperatives of South Gyeonsang Province. About 90% of those persimmons, or 5,600 tons, were exported to Southeast Asian countries including Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines. The remaining 10% were shipped to Canada and Guam.
This September, 16 agricultural cooperatives of South Gyeongsang Province made a joint investment to establish a company specializing in persimmon exports, the Korean Persimmon Export Company. The enterprise has two main goals. First, it aims to unify export channels, with support of its founding members, in order to improve the fruit’s competitiveness in the global market. Second, the company is expected to enhance the export performance by building the expertise in export business. Currently, Korean fruit exporters are facing tough competition from Chinese farmers whose export of Fuyu persimmons to Southeast Asia started rapidly increasing last year.
Mr. Seo Jeong-hyo, President of the Korean Persimmon Export Company, said, “The volume of persimmons from China surged in Southeast Asia in 2015. To make matters worse, their export timing overlapped with that of the Korean persimmon season and that hit us hard.” He added, “Moreover, the design of the Chinese persimmon boxes was so similar to that of the Korean fruit that many consumers were unable to distinguish between the two.”
An Endeavor to Bring Change
Simultaneously with its founding, the Korean Persimmon Export Company obtained the capacity of handling 70% of Korea’s Fuyu persimmon exports. At the top of its to-do list is systemizing the persimmon exporting channels. Once the company is stabilized, they plan to focus on recruiting experts, developing new markets, and strengthening the marketing capacity.
Mr. Seo said, “We set up the Korean Persimmon Export Company in an effort not to rest on our achievements but to adapt to new market conditions. Applying a proactive strategy in exports will also help to stabilize the domestic market and thereby raise the incomes of farmers.”
Continuous export of Korean Fuyu persimmons to Southeast Asia is particularly desirable because of the difference in size preference between the domestic and Southeast Asian consumers. Koreans prefer persimmons in M, L and 2L sizes, whereas the Southeast Asian consumers favor the ones in 3S to M sizes.
Mr. Seo explains, “Since foreign consumers look for 3S to M sizes, we can sell those fruits at a higher price than in Korea. In this way, exports have a direct effect on demand diversification and price stability.”
Consumers around the world like Korean Fuyu persimmons for an important reason. The fruit may not be as healthy as the superfood tomatoes, but it also has a number of health benefits. The main nutrients in Fuyu persimmons are tannin, scopoletin, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and fructose. Tannin is known to prevent the aging of cells. Scopoletin removes cholesterol and triglyceride out of the body and can prevent blood vessel diseases. Vitamins A and E, which abound in Fuyu persimmons, are good for relieving fatigue of the eyes and protecting eyesight in general.
Cultivation through a Safe Production System
The export of persimmons allows consumers to enjoy the healthy fruit and helps the persimmon growers increase their incomes. The Korean Persimmon Export Company strives to benefit both its member cooperatives and consumers.
The most important criterion for persimmons both in the domestic and overseas markets is the safety of the fruit. Members of the cooperatives receive education on pesticide residues twice a year. The use of pesticides is completely banned a month prior to harvest. This measure has been taken in consideration of Southeast Asian consumers who tend to eat fruit without peeling it.
Some of the member cooperatives have a blanket purchase agreement with farmers to encourage the production of fruit for export. Such agreements require of farmers only to harvest the persimmons and transport them to an agricultural product processing center of their cooperative. Once the fruit is delivered to the APC, the center takes care of sorting, packaging, and payments. This process was created for the convenience of senior farmers.
Mr. Seo said, “In the overseas markets, we are in an environment where we need to market our produce by competing in terms of the price and quality, so it is important for us to build up expertise and devise plans for reaching the consumers looking for premium quality fruit.”
Korean Persimmon Export Company
Tel : +82-55-268-1633
Fax : +82-55-268-1639
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