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Korean Fresh Produce Captivates Foreign Consumers with Its Merits of Excellent Taste, Safety, and Freshness

Fresh produce from Korea boasts outstanding texture and freshness thanks to the clean natural environment, rich soil, and four-seasoned climate it is grown in. The cultivation methods also play an important role. Korean farmers pay careful attention to securing the safety of their produce and strive to satisfy two other important conditions for consumers purchasing fresh produce: excellent taste and freshness. Their efforts are yielding good results. Last year, the export volume of Korean fresh produce increased by 8.4% compared to the previous year, amounting to 406,900 tons and coming close to the highest record (418,700 tons) set by Korean fresh food exports in 2014. This achievement reflects a growing recognition of Korean fresh products overseas. Exports of bell pepper have reached US$93.8 million, making the vegetable one of Korea’s top fresh products for export. The Korean strawberry is actively shipped to Southeast Asia where it earned many fans thanks to its sweet taste and fragrance. Korean fresh agricultural produce receives much attention from buyers at international exhibitions as well.

A booth introducing Korean fresh produce will be set up at the 12th Commission on Phytosanitary Measures for International Plant Protection Convention, which will be held from April 5th to 11th at Songdo Convensia in Incheon. The Convention is expected to attract approximately 300 government delegates from over a hundred countries. Let us take a look at representative fresh products exported by Korea.

1. Brilliantly Colored Bell Pepper

The colors of Korean bell pepper are vivid and clear. It also has crispy texture and high sugar content. Yet another advantage is its high safety and quality thanks to the supervision of the entire production process—from the selection of varieties to cultivation and harvesting to sorting and exporting—by the Korea Food & Drug Administration. Consumers around the world love Korean bell pepper for these multiple merits. Last year, exports of the vegetable increased by 10.1% compared to 2015, amounting to US$93.8 million.

2. Refreshing and Crispy Pear

Korean pear is a model of excellence celebrated for its refreshing juice, crispy texture, and rich sweetness. Well-received in overseas markets, it is the second largest export item among Korean fresh agricultural products. At present, Korean pears are actively shipped to the US and Taiwan. Southeast Asian and the Middle Eastern markets have also begun to show interest in the product. The completion of quarantine negotiations with the Brazilian government has opened the door to export of Korean pears to Brazil as well.

3. Sweet and Sour Strawberry

The Korean strawberry is characterized by a high sugar content of 12-14 brix, sweet fragrance, sturdiness, excellent texture, and good storability. Since it was first introduced to overseas markets in December 2013, its export volume has been rapidly increasing, reaching US$34.1 million last year. The popularity of Korean strawberry is growing particularly fast in Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore, and other markets of Southeast Asia. The preference of Thai consumers for strawberries as a Valentine’s Day gift has made the Korean strawberry a steady seller in the country.

4. Firm and Sweet Tomato

Korean tomatoes have a high sugar content and firm texture. The latter characteristic makes them a versatile ingredient for many dishes. To ensure food safety of tomatoes, several cultivation complexes carry out tests through which tomato exporting farmers can check the soil composition, water quality, and pesticide residues. These days, the Korean cherry tomato, which is about 1/10th the size of a regular tomato, is receiving a favorable response in overseas markets for its high sugar content and bite size.

5. Safe and High-Quality Apple

Korean apples are sweet and sour and are highly praised for their balanced sweetness, excellent color, texture, and shape. In addition to the introduction of quality labeling and certification systems, farmers are thoroughly implementing the safe use and management of pest control and agrichemicals in order to increase apple quality even further. Thanks to their efforts, the Korean apple is well received in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. Moreover, individually-wrapped, washed apples are now exported to Russia.

6. Sweet and Crispy Persimmon

The chief producer of Korean persimmons, which is famous for its crispy texture and high sugar content averaging 14 brix, is South Gyeongsnag Province. The selection of persimmons for export is conducted at top-notch GAP (Good Agricultural Practice) certified facilities. Many factors, such as sugar content, size, and color, are taken into consideration in order to offer foreign consumers the persimmons matching their tastes.

Korean persimmons are exported to Southeast Asia (mainly Malaysia and Singapore) as well as North America (the US and Canada).

7. Chewy in Texture, High-Quality Mushroom

Korea offers world-class enoki mushrooms. Their export is led by Korea Mushroom Council which manages the entire production process, from cultivation to packaging. The quality of the mushrooms is ensured by the application of global GAP and cold chain systems. The king oyster mushroom from Korea appeals to foreign consumers with its soft yet chewy texture. Its exports to Europe, North America, and Australia are expanding, reflecting its growing popularity in those regions.

8. Nutritious Chestnut

Rich in carbohydrates, proteins, calcium, vitamins, and other essential nutrients, chestnut is well-rounded in terms of nutrition. For this reason, it popular as a snack in Korea, Japan, Europe, and other regions. Korean chestnuts are evaluated highly for the excellent quality of kernel and high sweetness. They are popular overseas, with the last year’s export amount reaching 8,000 tons. This year, the Korean government hopes to increase the international competitiveness of Korean chestnuts by designating two main regions for chestnut production in the country—Hadong (in South Gyeongsang Province) and Chungju (in North Chungcheong Province)—as regions specializing in the export of forest products.

9. Rich in Vitamins, Dietary Fiber, and Lactobacilli Kimchi

Made by fermenting fresh vegetables, kimchi is abundant in vitamins, dietary fiber, and lactobacilli. Its nutritional excellence is recognized around the globe, as reflected in its selection by renowned media as one of the world’s top five health foods. Even the former first lady of the US, Michelle Obama, made her own kimchi and uploaded its pictures and recipe through a social network. The kimchi export volume increased by 7.3% last year, amounting to US$78.9 million.

10. Healthy Ginseng

Korean ginseng is recognized for its efficacies including the prevention of cancer and lowering cholesterol. Achieving the highest export performance of US$ 190 million in 2011, it has been steadily getting good reception in overseas markets. The export amount of last year was US$ 133.5 million. With the increasing interest around the world in living a healthy lifestyle, it is anticipated that Korean ginseng and processed red ginseng products are going to enjoy continuous popularity.

11. Healthy Citron Tea with a Beautiful Yellow Color

Citron tea (Kor. yuja-cha) contains three times the amount of vitamin C found in lemon. It is highly effective in curbing colds and maintaining skin beauty. It is also known to contain a lot of organic acids that are good for preventing fatigue and aging. To boost the overseas sales of this healthy tea, an increasing number of Korean farmers grow citrons in an organic way without using pesticides, and some exporters have obtained international organic certifications in order to demonstrate the food safety of their products. The export amount of citron tea has increased from US$ 26.85 million in 2009 to US $41.6 million last year.

# Additional Information / The 12th Commission on Phytosanitary Measures for International Plant Protection Convention
The 12th Commission on Phytosanitary Measures for International Plant Protection Convention is being held at Songdo Convensia in Incheon from April 5th to 11th.

The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) is a UN FAO-affiliated global organization with members from 182 countries. Approximately 300 government delegates from 100 countries are expected to participate in this year’s convention.

The upcoming event is important as a venue, setting the direction for IPPC activities in the next four years prior to the International Year of Plant Heath in 2020. Accordingly, the convention is going to deal with the following matters: the IPPC Chair and Secretariat activity report, the establishment and amendment of international standards related to plant quarantine policy, the adoption of the IPPC advisory council, the IPPC finance and business plan report, the scheduling of the 2018 convention, the designation of 2020 by the UN as the International Year of Plant Health, and the selection of local chairs and members of assisting organizations in each region.

The Korean Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency, the host of the upcoming convention, hopes that the event will serve as an opportunity to express Korea’s standpoints with respect to raising global and domestic awareness of the necessity of plant protection and to enacting international standards.

Park Sung Eun  parkse@agrinet.co.kr

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