The staple of Korean people is rice. For almost every meal, they cook rice and eat it with soup and side dishes. This part of Korean culture has been maintained for thousands of years. In times of hunger, that Koreans dream of filling their stomachs with white rice is yet another indicator of how important rice is to them.
More recently, however, the consumption of rice has been decreasing due to the development of agriculture, industrialization, and free trade. The younger generations often have fast food instead of a rice meal, and the consumption of meat has also grown. Considering such changes in dietary lives of Koreans, it is unlikely that rice consumption in the country will grow in the future. Therefore, many rice farmers and producer organizations have turned their eyes to exports. Their first target has been cities with large Korean populations, mostly in the US, Europe, and Australia. The annual export volume has reached 2,000 tons per year, and the export market is expanding.
Ajagae Agriculture Association Exported 125.5 Ton of Rice in 2016
A producer organization of Sangju City in North Gyeongsang Province, Ajagae Agriculture Association first exported rice to Canada in 2014. In March 2016, they shipped 108 tons of rice to Canada and the US where it was sold to consumers through local distributors. The help of Sangju City Administration was indispensable in cultivating the North American market. Furthermore, in November 2016, an experimental shipment of 17.5 tons of rice was made to UAE Dubai, a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Most of the rice was supplied to sushi restaurants (classified as a special market channel) and the rest was sold through 40 regular channel distributors such as Spinneys and Waitrose. The rice is sold in 5 and 10 kg packages under the brand name “Ajagae.”
Ajagae rice has received positive evaluations as internationally competitive and excellent quality. Many factors affect the quality of rice: the cultivated variety, weather conditions, cultivation management, harvesting, drying method, and storing conditions. To produce the highest quality rice, members of Ajagae Agriculture Association jointly manage all those factors. The association currently includes 180 members who grow rice on 750ha.
The association asks all of them to cultivate rice of the same variety, Ilpumbyeo, which is one of the varieties disseminated by the Korean government and known for its good taste and high nutritional value. Seedlings are grown jointly and then distributed to individual farmers. The entire production area is divided into 12 complexes, each of which is managed by 2 to 3 managers. They are responsible for the supply of manure and the prevention of diseases and pests. Such stringent controls have enabled the association to receive the GAP (Good Agricultural Practice) certification for 540ha of the territory. The size of the pesticide-free cultivation area is 120ha.
President of Ajagae Agricultural Association An Sung-hwan said, "The administration performs the role of a control tower, while managers are responsible for managing each individual complex. In addition, we exchange information on the current status of production management and other issues through monthly meetings."
Advancing to the Global Market with the Two-Time Winner of Presidential Prize
The harvesting and collection of rice are also carried out jointly. The association purchases from farmers only grade 1 rice. Grade is determined by the brown rice recovery, according to criteria determined by the Korean government. “Brown rice recovery” is the term indicating the ratio of brown rice to rough rice. It can be accurately measured by special machines and should be higher than 78% for the rice to receive grade 1.
Mr. An said, "The association disqualifies the farmers who have a larger yield of grade 2 rice than grade 1 rice for more than three years in a row. We introduced this rule to ensure the production of high quality of rice."
Furthermore, the association produces rice with a protein content of less than 6%. The Korean government categorizes such rice as that of the highest quality. The quantity of proteins in rice is a factor determining the taste of rice. It is known that more proteins make the rice heavier in weight and poorer in taste. The quality of Ajagae rice was recognized by the Korean government twice when it was awarded the presidential prize at rice quality shows hosted by the government.
Mr. An explained, "The quantity of proteins in rice may change due to various factors—nitrogen quality, excessive use of manure, harvesting timing, and polishing procedures. All these and many other issues are covered in a manual that our association compiled and applies. We are proud to produce some of the highest quality rice in Korea."
The excellence of Ajagae rice can also be confirmed by the fact that the Association has a long-term partnership with a franchise specializing in rice cakes. The association has been supplying the franchise with 800 tons of rice every year since 2014. In early 2017, 24 tons of Ajagae rice is scheduled to depart for Canada, the US, Australia, and the UAE. The ultimate goal is to export 500 tons annually.
Mr. An said, "We strive to maintain the highest quality of rice by setting the temperature in the rice storehouse at 13℃ starting from March, when the weather starts getting warmer. It is because of the outstanding quality of our rice that we have been able to increase the export volume."
Ajagae Agriculture Association
Tel : +82-54-532-1903
Fax : +82-54-532-1904
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
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