Since its inception in 1967, Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation (aT) has been striving to establish a foundation for advancement of agricultural product industry and promote export of agricultural and fishery products over past decades by means of stabilizing prices, foreign trade promotion, marketing support and food processing support. Until 1986, aT had concentrated efforts on developing and supporting agricultural and fishery industries to narrow the gap between farming and manufacturing industries, and then it expanded its business activities to strengthen distribution structure and promote export of products.
Its major business activities include price stabilization, foreign trade promotion, marketing support and support for food processing industry as well as reinforcement of food security. To stabilize prices of agro-fishery products, it provides financial support, such as loans, to agricultural and fishery processing companies specifically for procuring raw materials. It also offers storage spaces to these companies, operating such facilities in major cities across the country, including Seoul, Daegu,
Gwangju, Jeonju, Incheon, Daejeon, Cheongju and Icheon. To promote trade of agro-fishery products, it is currently operating agro-trade centers in Beijing, Qingdao, Shanghai and Hong Kong (China), Tokyo and Osaka (Japan), New York and Los Angeles (the United States), Rotterdam (the Netherlands) and Singapore. These overseas agro-trade centers play roles of collecting information on agricultural and fishery products in overseas markets, promoting sales and conducting public relations activities by participating in major international exhibitions and other events. As part of its marketing support activities, it established the Agricultural Marketing Training Institute in 1985 to train specialists, such as marketing personnel and auctioneers. And aT supports food processing companies in rural industrial complexes, providing facility investment loans and information on management and technologies.
With the goal of achieving US$10 billion in export of agro-fishery products, aT has been reinforcing export system while enhancing competitiveness of local food industry. It also has been exerting efforts to improve distribution structures of agro-fishery products. The Corporation is aggressively pushing forward these initiatives under the leadership of President Kim Jae-su who served at the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for several decades and resigned in 2011 as its vice minister. Improvement of distribution structures of agro-fishery products is challenging due to complication in their transaction practices. And aT developed e-commerce system as an alternative. The e-commerce system is not a simple Internet shopping mall but a comprehensive e-marketplace that provides B2B, B2C and procurement of food materials for institutional food services. Through this, the Corporation has been developing key transaction models, discovering excellent products and diversifying markets. At the same time, it has been concentrating efforts on enhancing competitiveness of small retailers, such as shops, restaurants and butcher’s shops, by helping them conveniently order commodities and materials, and improving cash flow through linkage with point of sales (POS) systems.
Meanwhile, to cope with the global food crisis caused by abnormal climate changes in recent years, aT has been striving to secure more foods and grains. As part of this effort, it established a subsidiary in the United States, aT Grain, in April 2011 by forming a consortium with 3 Korean companies, including Samsung C&T Corporation, Hanjin and STX. Besides the United States, it is seeking to diversify grain import channels to other regions, such as Southeast Asia, Brazil, Maritime Province of Russia and Ukraine.
President Kim Jae-su of aT said, “Having marked its 45th anniversary in 2012, the Corporation is committed to contributing to growth of agricultural product industry and promoting export of agricultural and fishery products while stabilizing food security. To that end, it established 4 major long-term strategies - expansion of new markets, enhancement of business expertise, reinforcement of global capability and organizational innovation. Under these strategies, it will actively strengthen activities of fostering food industry, programs of procuring grains for the nation, and activities of predicting and managing supply of major agro-fishery products coping with climate changes.”
In an effort to promote trade of agricultural and fishery products, aT has been hosting the Korea Food Show and Buy Korea Food, a trade event, annually since 2009 jointly with other organizations.
With accumulated experiences and networks, the Corporation plans to host the largest-ever Buy Korean Food event for 3 days on May 27~29 this year, inviting around 130 foreign buyers and equal number of Korean exporters. The Buy Korean Food, which will be held at the aT Center in Seoul, is aimed at increasing export of Korea’s agricultural products and foods through large distributors and buyers in foreign countries, while continuously managing existing export networks and discovering new buyers. Foreign buyers will include large retailers, importers and food service companies, and importers will comprise those who deal with fresh foods (including forest products) and processed foods (such as beverages, teas, ginseng, cookies, health foods and liquors). The trade event is expected to contribute to spreading the K-food fever around the world.
In May 2013, aT held the Korea Food Show and Buy Korean Food simultaneously in conjunction with Korea Foods Industry Association and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) at KINTEX in Goyang, Korea. Under the theme of ‘K-Food, Go Beyond, Over the Food’, the show introduced a variety of spectrums of the ‘convergence food industry’. The exhibition venue was consisted of four main zones, including the natural foods hall, traditional foods hall, cultural foods hall and visionary foods hall, as well as the ‘symbiotic growth pavilion’ that showed a way of partnership relations between large companies and small-medium businesses in food processing industry. The Korea Food Show also featured various associated events, such as Korean traditional liquor festival, Asian foods forum, conference on analysis and outlook of food industry, and job fair in food industry. Notably, it unveiled the oldest rice seed in the world, dubbed the ‘Sorori Rice Seed’, which is known to have grown about 15,000 years ago in Cheongwon, Korea, and the ‘Suwun Jabbang’, the oldest recipe book of Korean traditional foods in Korea. The ‘Sorori Rice Seed’ was officially recognized as the world’s oldest rice seed by the International Archaeological Society in 2003.
Specifically, the natural foods hall showcased various natural foods that provide basic tastes, health, survival and safety, including famed ‘Sinan solar salt’ that contains 3 times more minerals with 10% less sodium than ordinary salts and ‘organic stevia leaf tea’ that contains natural seasoning agent with 200 times higher sugar content than other sugar products. The cultural foods hall presented trends in food markets that are evolved from foods for well-being to those for healing physical and mental illness. It introduced simplified foods for singles, premium health foods for ‘health+premium seekers’, and foods for fair camping. Under the theme of symbiotic growth, creativity and prosperity, the visionary foods hall projected the future of Korean foods industry that pursues the 6th industry that can generate new value by combining production of agricultural products with processing procedure and tourism service. As typical examples of 6th industry products, it displayed rubus coreanus fruits, apples and rice beer.
Companies cited for outstanding performance
As part of its effort to ensure the commitment to achieving US$6 billion in export of agricultural and fishery products in 2013, the MAFRA and aT held on May 3, 2013 the Export Tower Awards Ceremony for Agricultural and Fishery Products to cite 28 companies and individuals who made outstanding contribution to increasing export of agricultural and fishery products. They include Mush-M, Dongsuh Food, Morning Farm, and Damtuh that were honored with the Presidential and prime minister’s citations, respectively. Accounting for 76% of Korea’s entire king oyster mushroom export, Mush-M contributed to increasing export amount of such mushroom of Korea by 10.4% in 2012. Dongsuh Food has been manufacturing refined coffee products for more than two decades and its export of refined coffee products increased by 50 times in this period by exporting them to 27 countries, including the United States, Australia and Russia. As the largest exporter of sweet persimmons and fruits in Korea, Morning Farm contributed to an increase in export of sweet persimmons by 36.5% in 2012 by conspicuously improving quality of fruits. Through localization strategies in China, the United States and Japan, Damtuh marked growth of over 90% in export of Korean traditional teas in 2012 compared to the previous year, contributing to globalization of such teas. Top prize awardees received citations with incentives for developing overseas markets of 150 million won (approximately US$141,000) while excellence prize and participation prize awardees received 100 million won (approximately US$94,000) and 50 million won (approximately US$47,000), respectively.
In addition to these, awardees of citation of the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs are:
Rima Global, an exporter of pears and other fruits, that actively exports fruits to the United States, Hong Kong and Indonesia. Lis Marketing publicized excellence of Korea’s agricultural products in overseas markets by establishing agricultural product processing centers and an R&D center, while increasing export of fruits and agricultural products, including pears, melons, strawberries, apples, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and king oyster mushroom. As a leading exporter of ‘kimchi’ (Korean traditional pickled vegetables), dried laver, bean curd and sauces, Daesang FNF contributed to developing new overseas markets to globalize ‘kimchi’ and soy sauces and pastes. Tamjindeul, a paprika producer and exporter, contributed to development of paprika farming and expansion of its export to help its producers increase export by 146%. R&G exported grapes to Canada for the first time among companies in Korea. It has exported processed foods and fresh agricultural products to North America and Southeast Asian countries, in value of US$30 million~US$40 million, annually. As a food product trading company, Daegwan exported a variety of food products, including milk, dried laver, instant noodles, confectionery, teas and soft drinks, mainly to China. Cheonggyewon, a leading exporter of eggs, is exporting fresh eggs to Singapore and Hong Kong, especially to a large chain mart in Hong Kong. Gwangyang Nonghyup, an agricultural cooperative in Gwangyang, exported quality agricultural products to foreign countries, such as paprika and flowers. Green Gaon, an agricultural corporation, exported mushrooms, pears and tropical orchids to foreign countries, including Hong Kong and Japan, recording growth of 400% in export revenue in 6 years. As a supplier of ‘kimchi’ products, Jinmi Food contributed to development of regional economy by purchasing vegetables from farmers on long-term contract basis and exporting ‘kimchi’ to foreign countries, such as Hong Kong, in total value of US$13 million. Moa Company successfully registered with the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare of Japan as an exporter eligible for advanced identification system, and exported ‘kimchi’ and greens for mixing with cooked rice to Japan and the United States in value of US$1.5 million in 2012. Imsil Rose Farming Cooperative contributed to improving quality of flowers for export by providing consulting services to flower growers. Naju Pear Agricultural Cooperative Association purchased pears for export in stable manner by fostering pear growers systematically, while rigorously managing quality of products. As an exporter of ‘kimchi’, Hanul Co. significantly increased export of ‘kimchi’ by enhancing status of Korean traditional ‘kimchi’ in Japan with established clean sanitary management system. Gumi Horticulture Cooperative contributed to expanding export of paprika by improving farming technologies and quality of products. Representative Kim Gap-jung of Yangchon Agricultural Products exerted efforts to exporting chestnuts and persimmons to foreign countries, including the United States, while contributing to developing overseas export markets for forest products. Representative Kim Jeong-ja of Gangneung Horticulture Production and Export Complex made outstanding contribution to increasing production and export of horticultural products, primarily paprika, by actively improving quality of products and installing infrastructure. Representative Lee Dong-geun of Sangju Pear Sabeol Farming Cooperative expanded export markets of pears from Taiwan to Southeast Asia, Russia and Hawaii, exporting about 500 tons of pears annually. Representative Lee Dong-geun played leading role in grasping difficulties and collecting suggestions of pear producers. As a buyer, President Kenneth Lee of Top Weal, Ltd. in Hong Kong conspicuously enhanced awareness of Korea-produced strawberries by actively conducting marketing and promotion activities in conjunction with prominent retailers in Hong Kong, including JUSCO and Park N Shop. Mr. Kenneth Lee also contributed to exploring promising export items, such as pears, apples and cabbages by operating corners dedicated to Korea-produced agricultural products at leading distributors, including City Super and Yata. Chairman Kim U-jae of KOIN BUMI in Indonesia helped Korean farming communities increase export of their agricultural products by expanding corners of Korean products at major retailers in Indonesia. Chairman Kim U-jae imported Korean agricultural products to Indonesia in value of US$119 million in 2012. Chief Executive Officer for Purchase Zhao Jia-yu of Niuhai Xinxi Jishu Ltd. in Shanghai, the largest online foods store in China, made conspicuous contribution to developing markets for Korea-produced agricultural products in China.
And awardees of citation of the Chairman of Korea International Trade Association (KITA) are as follows:
Representative Yun Yeong-seob of Chuncheon Flower Production Complex contributed to improving quality of lilies and increasing their export by developing new breeds of lilies and upgrading skills for growing lilies partnering with academia. Executive Director Lee Sang-chang at Bugyeong Pork Production Cooperative increased export of Korea-produced pork to overseas markets, including Hong Kong, Macau and other Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) countries. Mr. Lee Sang-chang helped pork producers in Korea export 500 tons of processed pork products to Hong Kong during the past 5 years. Unbong Agricultural Cooperative contributed to increasing income of local paprika growers by exporting eco-friendly paprika with top quality and improved storability to Japan.