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IFPA Leads Mission To Grow Fresh Produce Exports To South Korea

IFPA and Korean Business Services Inc delegates gather in Seoul to discuss export opportunities for the global fresh produce sector. Photo/Supplied

The International Fresh Produce Association is deepening fresh produce trade connections to enhance opportunities for Australian and New Zealand exporters as increasingly savvy South Korean consumers seek out new lines and eating experiences.

The IFPA’s Global Development Committee and East Asian Task Force conducted a fact-finding mission facilitated by Korean Business Services Inc to explore opportunities within the dynamic South Korean marketplace during a March 5-7 visit to Seoul. Activities included retail visits to Garak Market, Lotte Market and Costco Korea and a cultural excursion.

There was a strong desire from a South Korea delegation from across the supply chain for the IFPA to present a unified approach to developing global fresh produce imports including from Australasia, IPFA managing director A-NZ Ben Hoodless said.

“The visit was an exploratory first step. Continuous efforts to understand market dynamics are crucial for the success of IFPA members and to create opportunities for international fresh produce suppliers entering the South Korean market,” he said.

“Domestic horticultural production in South Korea has traditionally been and continues to be very important. However, severe weather events in 2022 significantly impacted apple and tree crops leading to increased imports.

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“It now relies heavily on imported food with annual imports totaling approximately $50 billion (food and agricultural products). Specifically, it imports $1.7 billion worth of fresh fruits, nuts and other processed fruit and expects a further increase in imported fresh fruits. This is due to climate change and the need to diversify and satisfy a population of some 51 million that has an appetite for new, fresh, and healthy.”

The United States, Spain and Mexico are South Korea's top three exporters of fruit while China, Mexico and the Netherlands are the top three exporters of vegetables.

He said Australia and New Zealand’s reputation for producing clean, safe produce presented significant potential for the export of tropical and sub-tropical fruits such as mangoes and stone fruit, and vegetables such as potatoes and broccoli.

“A rising middle class and increasingly tech-savvy population is driving the demand for a broader array of fresh produce as well as produce that has a year-round supply or health and wellness appeal. Avocados for example – little known five years ago – have become a sensation thanks to social media influencers educating consumers about their health benefits.”

He said South Korea consumers were keen to try new foods and wanted to know the origin of produce. They also demanded premium produce (such as mangoes, cherries, and table grapes) and understood the value of paying a premium for healthy, high-quality lines.

“With a sophisticated and well-structured food supply chain, South Korea is positioned to take advantage of a smorgasbord of global produce offerings.

“It’s fast emerging as an exciting market with significant potential for global fresh produce imports and specifically for Australian and New Zealand producers,” he said.

“Vegetables are very much a staple for everyone. School children have three meals a day funded by the government and supply is supported centrally.”

Insights power market knowledge

Mr Hoodless said the IFPA had been mapping markets, opportunities and assessing value and volume potential in the region for some time.

He said South Korea's huge online market was growing exponentially in line with an increasingly time-poor population.

“Large retailers have enormous purchasing power and influence and have the desire to create new categories and experiences. Consumers continue to pay higher prices for good experiences, premium, shared value products and tailored solutions. Western brands are seen as trusted, safe, and reliable.”

He said the next phase was to build networks and systems to connect South Korea’s importers and influencers to the IFPA's global membership.

“South Korea is open for business and we’re working towards developing our region’s influence,” he said.

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