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Sugok Dugchon Farming Association Corporation Enters Foreign Markets with Safe, High-Quality Strawberries

Located in Jinju of South Gyeongsang Province, the Sugok Dugchon Farming Association Corporation is a farmers’ cooperative established for the purpose of exporting agricultural produce. It has been offering its products in overseas markets for over 15 years since making its first shipment of the Maehyang variety of strawberry to Japan in 2002. Sugok Dugchon is known for its strict quality control. If an issue arises with a product, the corporation stops all shipments until the issue is resolved. Its products receive recognition from foreign buyers for taste, nutrition, and high quality. This year, Sugok Dugchon aims to achieve US$ 4 million in exports.

A Farming Association Specializing in Strawberry Exports
The corporation was organized with the joint investment of 32 farms in 2000. In 2007, it was reorganized as an exporter specializing in strawberry. The farmers decided to focus on the Maehyang variety and, through thorough management of cultivation, have earned the praise of overseas buyers for the excellent taste, scent, and flavor of their products.

Moon Soo-ho, President of Sugok Dugchon, said, “Maehyang is not an easy variety to cultivate, but it has a great taste and texture, so it makes a good export item.” Regarding the most important factor for the corporation to succeed in its exporting business, Moon revealed, “We receive regular training in techniques for cultivating high-quality strawberries from experts in the field.” The technical support comes from the Rural Development Administration.

Sugok Dugchon first exported only to Japan and has gradually expanded its market to Southeast Asia, Russia, the US, and the United Arab Emirates. The export amount to Japan has increased from US$ 150,000 in 2002 to US$ 330,000 in 2016.

Securing Food Safety by Making Products Easy to Trace with Farm IDs
Having witnessed some other exporters ship strawberries abroad without meeting safety standards and sold at a very low price, leading to frequent claims filed in the importing country, Sugok Dugchon places high priority on food safety. All farms of Sugok Dugchon carry out pesticide residue testing before shipping strawberries. Pesticide residue standards differ by the country, so the corporation has to be very careful to meet the safety regulations for each of its export markets. Moreover, each member-farm has its own individual ID, so if an issue occurs, they can quickly trace the source. The problematic farm then completely stops export and resumes it only after receiving clearance.

Thanks to these efforts, Sugok Dugchon has been able to export to Hong Kong which is known for having very strict pesticide residue standards and allowing very few pesticides. To Korea, Hong Kong is an important market importing 45% of Korean strawberry exports. The corporation is making an important contribution to promoting Korean strawberry exports to Hong Kong by consistently educating farmers and ensuring thorough safety management.

Plans to Expand Exports by Cultivating Markets in China, Russia, and the US
Moon said, “The strawberries that we produce are highly competitive in the international market. They are small in size but have a sugar content of 10o Brix on average and a smooth texture. With this highly-recognized quality, our strawberry sells at a price 30% higher than the American strawberry, so there is a good room for expansion of the export to the US.”

Sugok Dugchon also plans to expand exports by increasing the production of strawberries in line with the latest trends. For example, the preference of overseas consumers is changing from large strawberries to smaller ones, and the corporation often receives repeat orders for the smaller berries.

To further improve the quality of its products, Sugok Dugchon plans to set up a special team responsible for food safety management and to computerize daily production reports for all exporting farms. When the safety management system is complete, the corporation has long-term plans to build support systems for market diversification and the expansion of exports to China, Russia, and the US.

Sugok Dugchon Farming Association Corporation
·Tel: +82-55-758-3781 (Moon Soo-ho, President)
·Fax: +82-55-758-7161

Lee Young Ju  leejy@agrinet.co.kr

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