The Middle East, home to the Islamic culture, is a promising market for Korean agricultural products. Last year, exports of Korean agri-food to the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC, six countries including the UAE and Saudi Arabia) recorded US$ 462 million, increasing by 23.8% from 2015. This is due to the deeper penetration of Korean products into large and small stores around the Dubai area and the general rise of awareness of Korean food in the region after the K-Food Fair. The Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs plans to continue pioneering new markets in the Middle East like Iran. Below is a list of Korean agricultural products that are expected to attract attention of consumers in the Middle East this year.
The Ajagae Agriculture Association, located in Sangju, Gyeongsang Province, has conducted a pilot export of Korean rice to the UAE, shipping 17.5 tons to Dubai. Saudi Arabia is considered another promising market, and exporting procedures are currently under way. The first 15 tons will be shipped there in February. Once the exports start in earnest, it is expected that the Korean rice will come to dominate the Saudi Arabian market.
Korean fruits are regularly exported to the Middle East region due to their high quality and food safety. Recently, the refreshing and not excessively sweet taste of Korean pears has come into spotlight in the local markets. On January 27, 6.75 tons of Jinju pears received certification from the UAE government agency, Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA), and were transported to Dubai where they will be sold at the high-end supermarket chain Spinneys. Korean pears armed with Halal certification are expected to make a great advance in the Middle East.
# Traditional Liquor
Recently, Korean traditional liquor was exported for the first time to the UAE. Makgeolli (Korean rice wine) received a particularly good reception for its reasonable price (one-third the average price of regular wine), sweet taste, and the uniqueness of the rice-based wine. Although consumption of liquor in the UAE is prohibited, the ban does not apply to foreigners. The Korean traditional wine is sold at hotels, golf clubs, and specialty shops for foreign consumers. The Abu Dhabi office of aT (the Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation) hopes to increase the export volume by organizing promotional sales and sampling parties in restaurants and bars of local golf clubs and other venues.
# Ramen (Instant Noodles)
Korean ramen is selling fast in the Middle East, especially spicy noodles such as Hot and Spicy Chicken Ramen. Local people are in love with the unique spicy broth and chewy noodles of Korean products. Last year, US$ 5.2 million of Korean ramen was shipped to the GCC countries. This is a 22.1% increase over the previous year. In 2017, other kinds of noodles including somyeon (thin, wheat-flour noodles) and dangmyeon (glass noodles) are expected to join ramen as popular choices for consumers in the Middle East.
# Processed Red Ginseng
The number of people seeking processed Korean red ginseng products is steadily increasing in the Middle East, especially among consumers interested in health foods. According to a local consumer survey, most of the respondents gave a positive response to red ginseng preserved in honey, saying that the products are good for one’s health. Other processed red ginseng goods are also receiving high evaluations and are used as premium ingredients in high-end restaurants.
Due to the influence of Hallyu (Korean culture wave) and increased awareness of Korean food culture in the Middle East, kimchi, one of the most well-known Korean foods, is also getting a warm reception in the region. Last year, the export volume of Korean kimchi to the Middle East increased by 21% compared to 2015, reaching US$ 1.1 million. Korean producers offer local consumers a wide range of kimchi to choose from based on individual preferences: whole cabbage kimchi, diced cabbage kimchi, chonggak kimchi (whole radish kimchi), kkakdugi (diced radish kimchi), white kimchi, and many others.
Park Sung Eun email@example.com
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