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aT's Vision for the Future

Half a century has passed since the establishment of aT (Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation). The agency has played a key role in the renaissance of the Korean food industry by prognosticating and preparing for changes and relentlessly seeking to be innovative. To mark the 50th anniversary of aT, Korea Agrafood looks at the agency’s path from its beginning until today and introduces its vision for the future.

□ aT’s Footprint in the Past Fifty Years
aT was founded on December 1, 1967 as the Agriculture and Fishery Development Corporation (AFDC) with the aim of stabilizing the demand and supply of agricultural and fish products, improving the distribution system, and increasing farmers’ income. Its first office was located in the Jongno area of Seoul. AFDC put much effort into reviving the Korean farm food industry by assisting in the production, storage, and processing of food ingredients and promoting the consumption of agricultural products.

As its functions expanded to the coordination of demand and supply of agricultural and fish products and the stabilization of prices, the agency was reorganized into the Agricultural and Fishery Marketing Corporation in 1986. When market liberalization accelerated and WTO (the World Trade Organization) was founded in 1995, aT concentrated its efforts on nurturing Korean agriculture for export. As part of these efforts, it established Korean Trade & Distribution Centers (KTDC) in the Netherlands, New York, Singapore, and other places to act as hubs for entering regional markets.

The corporation made a leap into the 21st century with the construction of the aT Center in Yangjae-dong, Seoul. Unveiled on October 15, 2002, the aT Center is a modern convention center housing exhibition and conference halls for international fairs, a Trade Information Center designed to facilitate the expansion of exports, a Trader Hall accommodating food exporting companies and related organizations, and an Export Promotion Hall. The aT Center has been facilitating the pioneering of overseas markets by carrying out export consultations, promotions of promising products, and other projects.

In January 2012, the agency announced its new name, aT, or Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp., and the concept of a public corporation specialized in fostering a global farm food and seafood industry. Under the goal of achieving US$ 10 billion in food exports, aT has been actively nurturing strategic export products, promoting the globalization of Korean food culture, and assisting the advance of Korean companies to the global market, while expanding its network to 14 overseas offices in Tokyo, New York, Paris, Abu Dhabi, and other global locations.

In accordance with the Korean government’s policy of reducing the concentration of public organizations in Seoul by relocating them to other areas, aT built its new nest in Naju Innovation City of South Jeolla Province. The operation of the new headquarters started on October 7, 2014. By moving into a major production area, aT is able to focus closer on the acquisition of a competitive edge for farm and seafood products. It is also able to hire more talented individuals from local communities, thereby contributing to the development of the regional economy.

□ aT’s Vision for the Future
Since its foundation in 1967, aT has striven to respond to rapid changes in the local and international business environment. Reaching its 50th anniversary, aT has disclosed its grand vision for the development of Korean agriculture and fisheries in the next 100 years. Its primary mission is to establish a sustainable food industry for the country.

More specifically, the agency aims to boost exports by identifying overseas demand for Korean food products, create a stable demand and supply system focusing on domestic produce, increase the efficiency in the distribution of agricultural products, and increase the use of domestic ingredients. aT plans to increase exports further by diversifying the markets, discovering and nurturing promising products, supporting the export of products using domestic ingredients, eliminating non-tariff barriers, and assisting in the marketing of Korean products overseas.

To stabilize supply and demand, aT will create a platform containing comprehensive information on distribution and coordinate supply and demand by purchasing domestic produce. It plans to increase the efficiency of the distribution system by encouraging the organization of producer groups, upgrading the wholesale market, nurturing the flower industry, and fostering distribution professionals. Bolstering the direct trade of domestic food ingredients, nurturing traditional food products, and providing their sales channels will further help to cultivate Korean food industry.

Baek Jin-seok, the Director of Food Export in aT, said, “Although food comprises only a small portion of Korea’s exports, the food export business exercises considerable influence in boosting the domestic market and creating jobs.” He added emphatically, “aT will increase its support for food exports and continue its search of overseas demand for Korean products.”

Park Sung Eun  parkse@agrinet.co.kr

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