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[News Focus] 9 provinces invigorated by brisk agricultural exports

SEJONG -- South Korea’s nine provinces are competing to step up outbound shipments of agricultural products amid growing demand from a variety of overseas buyers, including Southeast Asian countries.

South Chungcheong Province is drawing particularly close attention since diversifying its export markets last year. Whereas until then the province had mainly focused on Hong Kong, Taiwan and the US, it has expanded its export destinations to include Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam.

According to the Korea Customs Service, South Chungcheong Province saw its exports increase 13.6 percent on-year to $423.4 million in 2018. Pears led this growth, bringing in $27.66 million, an increase of 33 percent from a year earlier. The US remained the province’s largest export destination, purchasing $13.58 million worth of pears, followed by Taiwan with $6.84 million and Vietnam with $6.28 million.

A director general with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs attributed the growth to government-led support, including eased nontariff barriers. “(The government) will continue to offer differentiated marketing activities in Southeast Asia,” he said.
(Graphic by Heo Tae-seong/Korea Herald)
(Graphic by Heo Tae-seong/Korea Herald)

Among the nine provinces, North Jeolla Province ranked No. 1 in terms of agricultural export growth in 2018, posting a 41.5 percent on-year jump to $310.8 million.

Livestock products led the province’s exports, posting 154 percent growth, followed by processed agricultural products with 125.3 percent and fresh produce with 7 percent. Chicken accounted for the majority of its livestock exports.

North Jeolla’s biggest export destination was China, followed by Thailand and Japan. Its exports to the economic superpower grew 60.8 percent to $67.19 million.

Gyeonggi Province, which posted 5 percent growth to record $1.35 billion, saw its exports to Southeast Asian markets surge 18.9 percent.

Gyeonggi’s farm-product exports to Vietnam shot up 82.2 percent thanks mainly Park Hang-seo, head coach of the Vietnamese national soccer team, according to Agriculture Ministry officials. The province’s exports to Laos and Indonesia also increased sharply, by 80.1 percent and 65.1 percent, respectively.

Nevertheless, three major countries -- China, the US and Japan -- bought 51.2 percent of Gyeonggi Province’s 2018 exports. Respectively, the three countries accounted for 21.5 percent, 18.2 percent and 11.5 percent.

While other destinations included Germany, Russia and Taiwan, the Gyeonggi provincial government is hoping to tap various markets by pouring 9.5 billion won into the overseas promotion segment and fostering a provincial complex oriented toward exports of fresh agricultural products.

North Gyeongsang Province prioritized outbound shipments of fresh produce. Though its collective exports inched up 2 percent to $533.2 million last year, fresh-produce exports surged 22.5 percent to $73.87 million.

Grapes topped the list with 64.7 percent growth, followed by peaches with 39.6 percent, mushrooms with 19.5 percent and pears with 16.8 percent, provincial data showed.
Malaysian consumers enjoy a taste of South Korean “gim,” or dried laver, during the 2018 K-Food Fair in Kuala Lumpur in August. (Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp.)
Malaysian consumers enjoy a taste of South Korean “gim,” or dried laver, during the 2018 K-Food Fair in Kuala Lumpur in August. (Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp.)

Among the main buyers of North Gyeongsang produce were China, Russia, the US, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Taiwan. The province has actively participated in K-Food fairs hosted by the Agriculture Ministry and the Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp. and has strived to advance into emerging markets.

“The achievement of $500 million in exports is an all-time high for us. We’ve seen steady exports (for the past few years),” said Kim Jong-soo, an official with the North Gyeongsang provincial government. “Exports also have the effect of stabilizing farm product prices domestically.”

Gangwon Province also posted record exports worth $367 million, up 25.8 percent from the previous year.

The province’s shipments to the US and China grew 57.9 percent to $40 million and 53.3 percent to $80 million, respectively, while its exports to the largest destination, Japan, dropped 3.8 percent.

Growth of Gangwon’s agricultural exports to Indonesia was noteworthy, recording 128 percent, with agricultural exports to that market totaling $23 million. The province’s farm-product exports to other Southeast Asian nations such as Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand rose about 20 percent on average.

Meanwhile, some provinces, including South Jeolla and Jeju, are gearing up to export premium farm products harvested with high-end, eco-friendly technologies.

K-Food fairs are scheduled to take place in seven cities worldwide throughout 2019, starting in April in Shanghai.

By Kim Yon-se (

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